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How Debra Messing's Trump tweets will affect NBC

Stephanie Pagones

Debra Messing, the star of NBC's sitcom "Will & Grace," was in the spotlight again Thursday morning after President Trump asked in a tweet if NBC would allow Messing -- whom he called “a McCarthy style Racist” -- to continue working for them.

The president wrote in a pair of tweets that “Debra The Mess Messing” is being accused of “McCarthyism” and “being a Racist because of the terrible things she said about blacks and mental illness,” and asked the network if they will keep her on.

But how much revenue has Messing -- along with co-stars Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes -- brought in for NBC since “Will & Grace” premiered in 1998, and how will her Trump-related tweets impact the network's potential television and syndication advertisement sales?

Messing starred as Grace Adler in the breakout hit series, which aired for eight seasons then took a decade-long hiatus before returning to the network in 2017. She also played homicide detective Laura Diamond in NBC's 2014 show “The Mysteries of Laura,” which ran until 2016, according to IMDB.

“Will & Grace” was raking in more than $400,000 per 30-second commercial in its 2003 season, according to AdAge.com. By the end of the show’s original run, Messing was making approximately $600,000 per episode, and the network was charging more than $235,000 per 30-second commercial, reports state. For the reboot, The Hollywood Reporter said Messing and her three co-stars were making $350,000 an episode.

Its 2017 revival brought in approximately $211,000 for a half-minute commercial, AdAge.com further reported.

However, a media buyer at a large advertising agency, who asked to remain anonymous, does not expect the war of tweets to impact ad sales for "Will & Grace" for the new TV season. “The public has really become somewhat numb to Trump-related tweets, so there’s not likely to be any impact,” the source said.  In addition, much of the ad time was sold last spring.

But besides airing on NBC, the episodes from the original run of the series have been available in repeats on local stations and cable networks. Currently, it is available on streaming service Hulu and NBC-owned cable channel, Cozi. Messing gets a percentage of the sales of the repeats of the series as do all the cast members and show creators. Bill Hague, vice president of television consultancy Magid Associates, told FOX Business he did not foresee any change in ad sales for syndication television.

“I don’t think her tweet is Roseanne-esque in the sense that that was racist and sexist and all of that. I think this is just her showing her politics, which I think is different. Maybe offensive to some, maybe as offensive as racism or sexism, but I don’t think it’s going to impact it at all.”

ABC’s hit reboot “Roseanne” was canceled in 2018 hours after lead actress Roseanne Barr posted a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to Barack Obama during his presidency, who is African American.

“Muslim Brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” Barr wrote in the since-deleted tweet.

She later apologized for the “bad joke about her politics and her looks.”

Hague noted how Messing played a character, a different person, as opposed to herself, which might have had more of stinging effect.

Messing first became involved in the controversy when, on August 31, she reposted “Will & Grace” co-star Eric McCormack’s tweet, which featured The Hollywood Reporter’s article about a Sept. 17 Trump fundraiser in Beverly Hills.

“Hey, @THR, kindly report on everyone attending this event, so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with. Thx,” McCormack’s tweet read.

Messing and McCormack received both criticism and support, but the actress – who is worth a reported $20 million – further came under fire later that day, when she shared to her Twitter account a story about an Alabama church that posted a sign that read: “A black vote for Trump is mental illness,” and, “A white vote for Trump is pure racism.”

“THANK YOU #Alabama,” she wrote.

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Trump responded on Sept. 1 in a tweet of his own, calling out Messing, with no mention of McCormack.

On Tuesday, Messing reposted another message from McCormick, who stressed that he does not condone “blacklists or discrimination” and would “simply like to understand where Trump’s major donations are coming from, which is a matter of public record.” The next day, she apologized for sharing the tweet about mental illness.

Marc Berman, editor-in-chief of Programming Insider, acknowledged to FOX Business on Thursday that NBC has already announced they will not continue “Will & Grace” after its third revival season, but called the show, “One of NBC’s most successful sitcoms.”

“If NBC, for whatever reason, decided, ‘We’re gonna fire Debra Messing,’ there’s no ‘Will & Grace.’ You can’t do ‘Will & Grace’ without Grace,” Berman said.

The sitcom is scheduled to return to the NBC primetime line-up on Jan. 31 at 9:30 pm ET/PT.

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