Donald Trump and Other Celebrities Fired for Saying Stupid S**t: What is the Economic Impact on the Network?

Ryan Bhandari  |

When The Donald announced he was running for president, he didn’t hold back. He said exactly what he wanted to say and didn’t care if his remarks offended anybody. Perhaps the inflammatory (read: idiotic) statement Trump made involved a criticism of our neighbor to the South and how they don’t “send” their best and brightest to America. In fact, according to Trump, “they’re sending people that have lots of problems…they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume are good people.”

The fact that these statements are factually incorrect doesn’t seem to have catalyzed any possibility of an apology from Trump. In fact, he has doubled down on these statements in the last few weeks, so NBC gave him the boot. They cut all ties with The Donald, which will likely hurt since The Celebrity Apprentice is one of their most popular shows.

This past season averaged 7.6 million viewers every single week, although that’s a marked decrease since the first season, which averaged 11 million viewers per week. It’s safe to say that losing The Celebrity Apprentice host is going to cost the network millions. Even if they find a new host, it’s doubtful he/she will be as entertaining as Donald Trump.

But that got us thinking as to other times major networks felt the need to let go of high profile celebrities and how much it cost them. Here is a list of other notable people fired by major networks:

Charlie Sheen

Fired: 2011

Network: CBS

Show: Two and a Half Men

In earl 2011, Two and a Half Men was flourishing. It was one of the most popular shows, and Charlie Sheen was the highest paid actor on television (making $2 millionan episode). Then, Sheen went and called the creator of the show, Chuck Lorre, a “stupid little man and a pussy punk.”

Sheen had been going through rehabilitation for drugs at the time and was not in his best state of mind. Lorre and CBS were unforgiving though and terminated his contract, alleging that Sheen was committing “felony offenses involving moral turpitude.” I’d like to point out that Charlie Sheen’s history of felony offenses was well documentedprior to this outburst, and his violent, reckless tendencies never seemed to bother them until he attacked the creator of the show.

Economically, it didn’t make any sense at all to fire Charlie Sheen. As a fan of the show with Charlie Sheen, I can tell you it wasn’t the same without him. In fact, you could say it sucked – a sentiment that other viewers tend to agree with, because they lost a third of their viewership on average after Sheen left. The end result? CBS lost millions every year after Sheen left their network.

The Winner: Sheen. CBS’s best show crumbled without Sheen, whereas the movie star was still cashing huge residual checks and had a new television show within a year on FX.


Keith Olbermann

Fired: 2011

Network: MSNBC

Show: Countdown with Keith Olbermann

The fiery political pundit was perhaps best known for his feud with Bill O’Reilly when he was on the air. His show ran for eight years on MSNBC before he was initially suspended in October 2010 once it was discovered he made campaign contributions to three Democratic Senators up for re-election. It is strictly against MSNBC’s policy to make political contributions without receiving approval from the network first. He briefly returned for a month after the election, but MSNBC ended up cutting ties with Olbermann in early 2011. Since then, Olbermann received his own show on ESPN called…Olbermann.

Before his departure, Olbermann was making $7.5 millionper year, more than he was actually worth based on his ratings. MSNBC ended up replacing Olbermann with ultra leftwing pundit Ed Schultz. That didn’t work. He was fired within two years. But after that, they replaced Schultz with Chris Hayes, who’s doing well. So, all in all, it seemed to be a good move to let Olbermann go at the time.

The Winner: Olbermann. Keith transitioned to ESPN relatively quickly and did very well for himself. MSNBC had to deal with the headache that was Ed Schultz for two years.  

Glenn Beck

Fired: 2011

Network: Fox News

Show: Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck is a popular conservative personality who once had a show on Fox News. Beck’s program was incredibly popular on Fox News, but it had its share of controversy. He rhetoric was very inflammatory, and often times racist. It was even too much for Fox News to handle, so they had to let him go.

(Here’s my personal favorite: “the president I think has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture…I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people, I’m saying he has a problem. This guy, I believe, is a racist.”)

Economically, this may not have been the smartest move for Fox in the short run. They lost a lot of viewership when they chose to let Glenn Beck go, but in their minds, they were trying to protect the brand of the network that they felt Beck was hurting. And since Fox News remains the most popular cable news network, it’s hard to argue that this was a bad decision.

The Winner: Both. Glenn Beck has enjoyed a lot of success on Blaze TV and Fox News continues to be successful even without him.

Don Imus

Fired: 2007

Network: CBS

Show: Imus in the Morning

Imus was the host of a popular radio show until he made some derogatory comments about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team. More specifically, he referred to them as “nappy-headed hoes.” Perhaps needless to say, the women on the basketball team didn’t take too kindly to this characterization. Imus, known for being a shock jock who’s never afraid to speak his mind, unfortunately went a little too far with this comment, at least in the eyes of the public. CBS terminated Don Imus’ contract despite the fact that his radio show was very popular.

Economically, this hurt CBS. Imus’ radio show was worth about $15 million to the company and they had to let him go. Imus in the Morning though was such a popular radio show that it got picked up by an ABC affiliate only eight months after CBS cancelled it. Again, CBS took a hit on this one.

The Winner: Imus. CBS lost big here whereas Imus found a job pretty quickly after this,

Rush Limbaugh

Fired: 2003

Network: ESPN

Show: Sunday NFL Countdown

Many millennials, who only know Limbaugh as a fat, drug-addicted, loud-mouthed conservative talk show host, may be surprised to find out that he was also a fat, drug-addicted, loud-mouthed football analyst on ESPN. Limbaugh was on Sunday NFL Countdown with Tom Jackson, Michael Irvin, and Chris Berman.

For the man who has said things like, “have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?” and “feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream society,” what he said on ESPN wasn’t that ridiculous.

In a discussion about Donovan McNabb, Limbaugh stated that “the media has been very desirous for a black quarterback to do well…he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he didn’t deserve…the defense carried this team.” I don’t agree with this statement, but there’s some argument to be made here.

The uproar was fiercethough, and ESPN had no choice but to dismiss Limbaugh from Sunday NFL Countdown. Economically, this didn’t really hurt ESPN at all. Limbaugh was not a reason people tuned into the show. He was kind of a sideshow. If Limbaugh were an integral part of the show, ESPN would have put up a bigger fight to keep him around.

The Winner: ESPN. Limbaugh didn’t really have any place on Sunday NFL Countdown. He’s not a former front office executive or player. He’s just a fan of the game. Don’t feel bad for Rush though. He makes upwards of $50 million now.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:


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