Before he so eloquently graced the presidential stage, Donald Trump was as big a reality star as the Kardashians on his hit NBC show Celebrity Apprentice, on which he became well-known for slapping people with the “you’re fired.”
In what many people are calling a conflict of interest, President-elect Trump will remain executive producer of Apprentice, which returns Jan. 2 after a two-year hiatus with new host Arnold Schwarzenegger.
MGM confirmed to Variety that Trump has kept his exec producer credit on the series – the same show that made the idea of the reality star’s presidency doubtful. In the show’s closing credits, Trump’s name will appear after Apprentice creator Mark Burnett’s and before Schwarzenegger’s, also an exec producer of the reborn show along with Page Feldman and Eric Van Wagenen.
An issue of large concern has been the payment Trump is to receive from the series; he’ll likely receive, at the minimum, in the low five-figures, which will be paid through the show’s producer MGM. MGM declined to comment on these financial matters. Many politicians, news anchors, and a majority of America have expressed concern that a president will be being paid by a TV show during his presidency.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed that Trump has maintained a financial interest in Apprentice. “Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett,” Hicks said. On Dec. 15 in a New York conference, Trump will discuss his plans for disconnecting himself from his plethora business interests after he is sworn is as president.
His adviser Kelly-Anne Conway says he’ll do Apprentice “in his spare time.” Yikes, do you even have that as president?
Apprentice was created by Burnett with the hope to recruit a new CEO every season who will eliminate entrepreneur contestants who try to impress. The show creator cited Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, as influential on his development as a producer, and later decided to have Trump be the first CEO on the show.
The show became successful immediately after its January 2004 premiere, making Trump the center of attention and an investor in the Apprentice franchise, which has been sold as a format in markets around the world since the show’s launch. Trump eventually left reality TV to launch his political career.
Just recently, Trump’s time on Apprentice was subject to much debate as former staff members and participants on the show alleged that Trump had engaged in crude behavior during the production. In October, the release of a tape – in which Trump and Billy Bush, on a 2005 segment of Access Hollywood, say disgusting “locker room” things about women and Trump brags about being able to grab women “by the pussy” because of his celebrity – pressured MGM and Burnett to release outtakes from Apprentice that may have captured the same brutish discourse by the then-Republican nominee, now president-elect. No footage was released by Burnett and MGM, who claimed their contract prevented them from doing so – nor could they search through 14 seasons of footage.