Will black viewers dump Trump over birther flap?

OPINION - Let me be clear. You can stop looking at the polls. Donald Trump is not running for president...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Until a few weeks ago, the most anticipated meltdown was NeNe Leakes’ and the only war anybody cared about was the one going on inside Gary Busey’s head. While the president was firing cruise missiles in Libya and natural disaster hit Japan, Donald Trump was spinning ratings gold with another round of escapist, much-better-than-reality TV shows.

The run-up to Celebrity Apprentice was better than a Yankees-Red Sox season opener. It should be said that reality shows of every kind, from the wildly successful Real Housewives franchise and Basketball Wives to whatever-the-Kardashians-are-doing-this week, over-index with African-American viewers. Put simply: we like watching “rich” people make fools of themselves. Especially when they look like us.

Heck, I couldn’t wait to see Star Jones deal with NeNe Leakes. I was planning to pop some popcorn for the occasion.

You have to give it Donald Trump. He and executive producer Mark Burnett know something about playing to an audience. Advertisers gleefully wait in line like a gaggle of American Idol wannabes to do business with the show.

The thrice married, comb over construction magnate has rounded the bases more often than Babe Ruth. Although Trump is less likely than Hank Aaron to put one over the fence, his knack for stealing bases puts him right up there with Lou Brock.

Except Trump was born on third base. The sometime real estate developer, socialite, author and television personality promptly stole home plate, then convinced the world he’d hit a Grand Slam.

That’s the art of brand marketing. And for many years, despite a string of corporate bankruptcies, failed real estate deals, and matrimonial misfires, Trump was King of the Hill.

Let me be clear. You can stop looking at the polls. Donald Trump is not running for president.

I mean, after all, what serious presidential candidate would submit himself to be roasted with penis-laden jokes on Comedy Central? And does anyone actually believe he will file the necessary Federal financial disclosures and tell the world how much money he really has? Not a chance. I have a better shot at marrying Denzel Washington than seeing The Donald’s tax return.

Contrary to his wild claims, Trump was never the smartest or the richest guy in the room. He doesn’t have to be. Although he sometimes hit a decent pop, Lou Brock was nobody’s power-hitter. Stealing bases, Trump would tell you, is about sheer speed and instinct — something he has never lacked.

Until now.

This year’s cast of Celebrity Apprentice, including Star, NeNe, LaToya, Dionne and Lil Jon, appeared to be a stroke of genius. But despite all the hype and promos, the show debuted at #3, down 16 percent from last year according to Nielsen.

Most believe Trump is using the airtime he gets from national interviews about a possible presidential run as a backhanded way to kick-start lagging ratings. But Trump, who parlayed his father’s large real estate holdings into a marketing juggernaut, should be careful. His entire empire is built on the relative strength of his personal brand.

All press is not good press. Every time he turns up on a newscast to challenge the president’s citizenship and bluster about the conspiracy theories, his brand reputation takes another hit. Despite previous hints of bias, black consumers had been one of Trump’s best and most faithful audiences. As a people, we celebrated his business acumen; purchased his books and anything else with the Trump name we could get our hands on. Now among African-Americans, the once gilded Trump brand is about as worthless as a plug nickel.

The black viewers who make up a big share of his viewing audience every Sunday are the same people who lined up around the block to vote for President Barack Obama. While no one believes Trump can actually win a race for city alderman let alone president, African-Americans equate “birtherism” with racism. And if Trump doesn’t like being painted as bigot, then he should put down the bucket and brush.

I’m not calling Trump a racist. But he ought to quit quacking before people start believing he’s a duck.

To read more from Goldie Taylor, visit www.goldietaylor.com.