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Did NBC News miss the whole Trump-media-creature backlash?

Donald Trump speaks at a debate sponsored by CNN for the 2016 Republican presidential candidates in Houston in February. (Mike Stone/Reuters)

NBC News and its sister cable network, MSNBC, have been following the news over the past 11 months. They know that the story of Donald Trump’s rise, though clearly a political cataclysm, is seen as a media phenomenon. They’ve seen all the NewsBusters posts deploring the over-coverage of Donald Trump’s candidacy. They’ve heard Trump’s $2 billion earned-media figure bandied about by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among many others.

And yet!

Last night, “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt kicked off last night’s edition with these words: “Good evening. Raise your hand if you predicted this a year ago. 320 days ago, Donald Trump rode down the escalator here at Trump Tower to announce he was running for president — a candidacy that many across the country — political analysts, members of the media and his opponents — didn’t think stood a chance. But with Cruz and [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich now out, Trump is the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president. It’s a remarkable moment in American political history.”

Bolding inserted to highlight a dumb move: “NBC Nightly News” broadcast its entire show from Trump’s very own cave. In that opening above, Holt stood in front of a hopping scene at Trump Tower, with hangers-on moving about and checking out the production. Not a bad look for the Trump brand:

Here’s Holt introducing a story about a Canadian wildfire, from Trump Tower:

The surroundings may look familiar in part because many interviewers have met Trump on his home turf — and then returned to their offices to do the rest of their work.

Brian Stelter, in his “Reliable Sources” newsletter, noted that Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin co-hosted “With All Due Respect” from Hillary Clinton’s Brooklyn campaign headquarters last July. We don’t remember much backlash over that move, perhaps because it wasn’t a broadcast network newscast and Clinton isn’t as much of a media sensation as Trump.

That such a storied news brand would camp out in the real estate of a controversial real-estate mogul furnished a sudden social-media problem for NBC News, as Mediaite documented.

When this blog asked NBC News last night how it explained the decision, the response came back from an official: “NBC Nightly News will make the same offer to the Democratic presumptive nominee.” It took little reportorial skepticism to see that as a weak response, coming from an official who declined to be named. Note the verb tense: When the outlet says it “will” make the same offer to the Democratic nominee, it’s saying, in effect, that it hasn’t already done so. It’s a clever dodge, considering that Hillary Clinton has declared that she’s not calling herself the presumptive nominee. Nor is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), of course.

Should the Democratic presumptive nominee agree to the NBC News offer, the outlet will be in for a fresh round of laughs — these are the lengths to which it’ll go, after all, to paper over a Trump mistake.

By the way: The reason that NBC News was at Trump Tower to begin with was a Lester Holt interview with the GOP presumptive nominee. It went fine.