Before Finding Donald Trump, Mark Burnett Tried To Make Vladimir Putin A Reality TV Star, ‘New Yorker’ Reports

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As the investigation of his connections to Russia, and the possible role played by the Russian intelligence agencies in getting him elected in 2016, threatens to imperil Donald Trump throughout the year 2019, as the Guardian reported, a new report reveals that the man who may be more responsible than anyone for paving Trump’s path to power tried to do something similar for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In fact, according to a new investigative report by the New Yorker magazine, reality TV producer Mark Burnett attempted to recruit Putin to star in a reality show three full years before the debut of the Apprentice, the reality show that made Trump a nationwide star.

Prior to his starring role on the Apprentice, Trump was reeling from a string of business failures including six bankruptcies and the rapid-fire collapses of, as Time reported, a Trump-branded airline, and three Atlantic City casinos.

Even original Apprentice staff members considered Trump a “fake” and a “court jester,” as the Inquisitr reported. But Trump’s portrayal on the Apprentice, shaped by Burnett and his staff of editors, rehabilitated Trump and and elevated him from a figure known mainly on the local New York business and social scene to a national superstar.

“This picture of Trump as smart, decisive, blunt, benevolent, rich—really rich—and never wrong turned out to be the ideal launching pad for his improbable presidential campaign,” Fortune Magazine reported during the 2016 campaign.

Vladimir Putin in 2001
Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2001, at theme Mark Burnett tried to make him a reality TV star.Featured image credit: Oleg NikishinGetty Images

But that was 2004. In 2001, Putin had assumed the Russian presidency only a year earlier amid international suspicions that he may have been secretly behind a series of Moscow apartment building bombings that killed more than 200 and were blamed on Chechen terrorists, as the CBC recounted. The horrific attacks helped propel the hard-liner Putin to victory.

Soon after Putin took office he began dismantling the mechanisms of Russian democracy, as Slate recounts. Within a year, Burnett — then riding high off the success of his first reality TV hit Survivor — approached Putin.

“In 2001, he sought to enlist Putin in a project called Destination: Mir, a reality competition in which the winner would be sent into space. The idea was scuttled after Russia decommissioned the Mir space station,” wrote New Yorker journalist Patrick Radden Keefe. But Burnett never gave up on making Putin a reality star — or on Russia.

“In 2015, Burnett expressed an interest in building a reality show featuring Putin—not so much a program about politics, Burnett suggested, as a hymn to the glory of Russia, ‘the humans, the nature, the animals of the nation,'” Keefe reported.

In September of 2018, Putin finally became the star of his own reality show, but Burnett was not involved. The show, titled Moscow. Kremlin. Putin. and running on the state-controlled Rossiya 1 network, “follows the Russian leader’s weekly activities,” according to the Washington Post.