A short history of Donald Trump’s blood feud with the Emmys

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During Wednesday's third presidential debate, Hillary Clinton criticized Donald Trump for saying that the election is rigged, reminding America that her opponent is a habitual sore loser.


"There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row," she said, "And he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him—"

"Should have gotten it," Trump interrupted.


"Rest assured," the Television Academy soon tweeted, "the Emmys are not rigged."

There's a small part of me that's inclined to agree that Trump should have won, if only because the Emmy might have satisfied his megalomaniacal hunger for power, sparing our country a lot of trouble. But here are we are!

Once upon a time, before the self-described billionaire became a living, breathing embodiment of racism, sexism, and xenophobia—as well as the main character in at least 80% of my stress dreams—he was the host of NBC's The Apprentice, which aired from 2004 to 2010 and saw aspiring business titans compete for a job in one of the real estate magnate's companies. And once upon a time, the Emmys did him wrong. So very wrong.

Some background: The Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Competition Program was introduced in 2003. Since then, 10 of the 14 trophies awarded in this category have gone to The Amazing Race, the long-running, Phil Keoghan-hosted CBS series that dispatches teams of two in a—you guessed it—race around the world. The only other shows ever to have won are Top Chef (in 2010) and The Voice (in 2013, 2015, and 2016).


While it aired, The Apprentice was nominated for Outstanding Reality Competition just twice. Compare that to Survivor (four times), The Voice and So You Think You Can Dance (five times each), American Idol (nine times), Top Chef (10 times), and Dancing With the Stars (11 times). It's also worth noting that The Apprentice garnered six more Emmy nominations in other categories—for cinematography, directing, picture editing, and sound editing—but lost all of them.

How did a man who could literally become the leader of the free world get so very, very angry that no one would give him a prize for telling people they're fired? Let's take a look back.



  • The Apprentice premieres on NBC in January.
  • Donald Trump becomes a voting member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in June.
  • The Apprentice is nominated for Outstanding Reality Competition, alongside The Amazing Race, American Idol, Survivor, and Last Comic Standing.
  • At the 56th Primetime Emmy Awards in September, Donald Trump and Simon Cowell co-present the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series to Cynthia Nixon for Sex and the City. Trump makes it through his time on stage without calling Nixon or any of her fellow nominees a "nasty woman," so I'd say it went OK.
  • That night, The Apprentice loses to The Amazing Race.


  • The Apprentice is nominated once again for Outstanding Reality Competition—the last time it will ever earn a nod in this category. The competition: The Amazing Race, American Idol, Survivor, and Project Runway.
  • During this year's Emmys ceremony—as part of an ongoing "Emmy Idol" gag that sees contemporary celebrities performing classic TV theme songs—Donald Trump and a pair of overalls sing "Green Acres" with Megan Mullally, in character as Will & Grace's Karen Walker. It is deeply, deeply weird, and will probably make you feel bad for Megan Mullally.
  • The Apprentice loses to The Amazing Race again.


  • The Celebrity Apprentice premieres in January.
  • This September marks the first time that the Emmy for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality Competition Program is ever awarded. Fun fact: Trump will never, ever be nominated in this category.


  • The Celebrity Apprentice receives its only Emmy nomination to date: Outstanding Picture Editing for Reality Programming.
  • It loses to Project Runway.


Trump posts an unhinged a not particularly hinged video screed against the Emmys, which he calls a "con game," and The Amazing Race on the Trump Organization's YouTube account:

Fewer and fewer people watch the Emmys each year, and for good reason. Their ratings are way down, they're just not doing a good job… I remember originally when I was nominated, everybody thought The Apprentice was going to win. It was the hottest thing on television, virtually, and everybody said, 'The Apprentice will easily win.' Well, it didn't win. They picked another show that, frankly, has been nominated and won many years, and it's like an irrelevant show.



Donald tweets his feelings.



Donald tweets some more.



Have we mentioned that Donald enjoys tweeting?



On a January episode of The Celebrity Apprentice, Trump learns that contestant and talk show host Leeza Gibbons has an Emmy, and takes the opportunity to express his ongoing displeasure with the Television Academy: 

I got screwed out of an Emmy. Everybody thought I was gonna win it. In fact, when they announced the winner, I stood up before the winner was announced. And I started walking for the Emmy. And then they announced the most boring show on television, The Amazing Race. Piece of crap.


There is little I would not give to watch footage of the Zoolander-esque moment when Trump mistakenly thought he'd won an Emmy.

Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.

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