NBC is ending its relationship with business magnate Donald Trump over comments he made about Mexican immigrants during the announcement of his Republican presidential campaign.
The network said it would no longer show the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which had been a joint venture between the company and The Apprentice host. Miss USA has been on NBC since 2003 and this year’s edition was set for July 12.
“At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values,” NBC said in a statement.
But Mr Trump said a “weak” NBC might have to see him in court.
During his presidential kick-off speech, Mr Trump said Mexican immigrants were “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people”. He also called for building a wall along the southern border of the United States.
Mr Trump later said that his remarks were directed at US policymakers, not the Mexican government or its people.
But Mexican media giant Televisa said it would no longer show the Miss Universe pageant or do business with Mr Trump on any other communication project.
Televisa, one of the largest TV groups in the hemisphere, said his “disrespectful” remarks offended the entire Mexican population. The company said it “strongly rejects all forms of discrimination, racism and xenophobia”.
NBC’s action comes less than a week after Univision similarly decided to ditch Mr Trump and the pageants. Mr Trump has also been a fixture on NBC as host of The Apprentice and its celebrity offshoot and an agreement that he would no longer be on the show pre-dated the current controversy.
The network said it and producer Mark Burnett were exploring ways to continue Celebrity Apprentice minus Mr Trump.
Mr Trump said he anticipated losing the business relationship and was not apologising for his statements because they “were correct”.
“Whatever they want to do is OK with me,” he said after a campaign speech before the City Club of Chicago, comprised of civic and community leaders.
But in a statement issued by his company in New York, he said: “NBC is weak, and like everybody else is trying to be politically correct. That is why our country is in serious trouble.”
Mr Trump said he would consider suing, as he planned to do with Univision. He also took a sideswipe at NBC’s decision to demote, but not fire news anchor Brian Williams for telling false stories about some of the reporting he was involved in.
“They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won’t stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be,” he said.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a group of 39 Latino advocacy organisations, had called on NBC to get out of business with Mr Trump. Similarly, a petition urging the same thing on the Change.org website gathered more than 218,000 signatures.
In a sense, NBC’s hand was forced by Univision’s decision. NBC’s parent company, NBC Universal, owns Telemundo, the chief competitor to Univision among Spanish-language networks in the United States. Telemundo lost the contract to air Miss USA and Miss Universe to Univision.
“If they need and value the Latino community, they needed to show they knew the depth of the insult that came from Trump,” said Felix Sanchez, organiser for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda.
Dozens of protesters from immigrant and Latino rights groups waited outside a Chicago restaurant where Mr Trump spoke. Their chants included “No more hate!”.
Maritza Vaca, with the Chicago-based Accion Hispano, said immigrants had rights and was upset by Mr Trump’s comments. “It is racism,” she said. “For him to be running for president is ridiculous.”
NBC said it was still determining what it would show in place of the pageant next month. Miss USA drew 5.6 million viewers when it aired in June 2014, a million more than the year before. That would have been a very good rating if it had been repeated, although television viewership in early July is usually lower than at any time of the year.