One day you're in, and the next day you're out.
Image by Leila Ettachfini
One day you're in, and the next day you're out. That's the tagline of Project Runway, but it's come to define President Donald Trump's White House, where advisors like Chief Strategist Steven Bannon fall in and out of favor and Communications Director Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci was cast off after ten days. Everyone from the New York Post to Matt Taibbi have compared Trump and his staff to a reality television cast, but reality television stars believe the White House is much crazier than anything on Bravo.
"[The White House is] zany, crazy, and sometimes it's nuts," porn legend and reality television veteran Ron Jeremy tells Broadly in a phone call. "I wouldn't call it a reality show... I would call [his White House] a crazy slice of life."
Jeremy has starred on reality TV programs since the mid-2000s. "I was on three reality shows that all paid really well," he boasts. He recalls producers setting up competitions and other situations that would declare a contestant's fate. "You lose your ability to choose your destiny. You have to do what you have to do. It's your own words, but it's given within a structure," Jeremy points out. "The White House isn't [like] that because Donald Trump can do what he wants to do."
In the last two weeks alone, the president has either fired or accepted the resignations of the Mooch, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Celebrity Big Brother contestant Perez Hilton notes that Trump has ditched staffers more slowly than he had fired people on television (most reality programs film over a few short weeks), but the president's firings still share similarities to his past.
"Trump is treating his presidency like The Apprentice," Hilton writes in an email. "He telegraphed this."
Trump and his staff shout off-the-cuff remarks like reality stars, but some reality veterans believe the Republicans have floundered from lacking reality TV legends' ability to appear crazy while controlling their narrative. Spencer and Heidi Pratt, for instance, came across as unhinged on The Hills, but knew exactly when to spread rumors about Lauren Conrad, apologize to her, and attack their co-star all over again. They were playing villains. Jeremy, meanwhile, stripped on The Surreal Life, giving producers the salacious scene that they paid for, but made a pact with his colleague Vanilla Ice not to cry on camera. "A man looks so dumb when he's crying on a reality show," Jeremy explains. He knew how to simultaneously shock audiences and also collaborate with a fellow performer to manipulate producers and protect his brand.
In contrast, Hilton writes, "Trump doesn't know how to work the White House or, frankly, how to govern."
Hilton and other reality stars say they'd fare better in the White House than most of Trump's staff and it's easy to see why. Professional reality stars know someone is always recording, unlike Scaramucci, who yelled about sucking cocks to New Yorker's Ryan Lizza on the record, but later tweeted that he made a mistake in trusting a reporter. And as Annie Karni wrote in Politico this week, the only two famous Trump staffers who've made good PR moves by wisely diminishing their public profiles are Kellyanne Conway and Omarosa Manigault—who both have off-script TV experience. (Conway worked as a cable news pundit alongside Ann Coulter in the late 1990s, while Manigault starred on The Apprentice after working for Al Gore.)
They know how to play the game, and their craftiness impresses other reality stars. "I would def be the Kellyanne talent," Hills bad boy Spencer Pratt writes in a Twitter direct message. But Conway is an anomaly. Reality stars consider most of the White House dumb and out of control.
"I would totally survive in the Trump White House because I'm smarter than Donald," Hilton gushes in an email. "Much smarter than him!"