Trump Pledges He Won’t Devote Time to Role on New ‘Apprentice’

  • Aide had suggested president-elect may work on show as hobby
  • NBC back in Trump’s orbit With ‘Apprentice’ producer credit

Donald Trump attends 'The Celebrity Apprentice' Season 3 finale after party at the Trump SoHo on May 23, 2010 in New York City.

Photographer: Moises De Pena/FilmMagic

President-elect Donald Trump said he won’t spend any time working on the new version of the TV reality show he starred in before seeking office, although he will be paid and credited as an executive producer.

“I have NOTHING to do with The Apprentice except for fact that I conceived it with Mark B & have a big stake in it,” Trump tweeted to his 17 million followers on Saturday, referring to producer Mark Burnett. “Will devote ZERO TIME!”

A follow-up tweet said reports by CNN that Trump would be working on the show while president, even part time, “are ridiculous & untrue - FAKE NEWS!”

The arrangement, unusual for a sitting president, may subject Trump to criticism from watchdogs on the lookout for conflicts of interest between America’s first billionaire commander in chief and his far-flung business interests.

“Suppose the show gets poor ratings?” said Robert Stern, former general counsel for the California Fair Political Practices Commission. “Will NBC be reluctant to cancel the show since it does not want to offend the president, his Federal Communications Commission or other agencies that regulate the company?”

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the president-elect, didn’t respond to a question about his involvement on “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” saying only, “Additional details regarding Mr. Trump’s business interests will be provided on Dec. 15.” 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which owns the program, confirmed Trump’s credit on the NBC show, while declining to comment further.

Trump’s tweet came a day after his campaign manager and transition adviser, Kellyanne Conway, raised the possibility that Trump could work on the show in his “spare time,” comparing it to President Barack Obama’s frequent weekend golf outings.

“Presidents have a right to do things in their spare time, in their leisure time,’ Conway said on CNN. “Work is his work and work his hobby,” Conway said of Trump.

What are Trump’s conflicts and why are they important? A Q&A

Trump starred in the original “Apprentice,” and he’s eligible to receive proceeds from the new version because of his production role on the show, which begins airing Jan. 2 with former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as host. That means that when NBC pays MGM, MGM can then issue a payout to Trump for his portion.

Trump’s role means NBC is indirectly connected to him once again, more than a year after the broadcaster ended a business relationship with the then-presidential candidate when he referred to Mexicans as rapists.

NBC executives don’t see that as a contradiction to their policy, since the network isn’t paying Trump directly, according to a person familiar with the matter. More problematic was NBC’s relationship with Trump as co-owners of the Miss Universe organization, a joint venture that ended when the network broke off ties, the person said.

Trump has had an off-and-on public relationship with NBC. Months after cutting ties with the candidate in 2015, NBC had him on as guest host of “Saturday Night Live.” When the late-night comedy show tapped Alec Baldwin to impersonate Trump in the final months of the campaign, the candidate lashed out at the show on Twitter, saying the program was unfair and no longer funny.

Five Figures

As an executive producer on “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” the president-elect could be due a payment in the low five figures per episode, according to Variety, which first reported his continued role. Trump has been affiliated with “The Apprentice” on NBC since its inception in 2004, and has served as executive producer. His name will appear in the credits after Burnett and before Schwarzenegger, according to Variety. NBC, owned by Comcast Corp., has committed to eight episodes, according to the publication.

When it started out, “The Apprentice” featured a number of contestants competing in business-related challenges to win a spot as a worker at the Trump Organization.

Former bodybuilder and action movie star Schwarzenegger, also a Republican, gave up acting after being elected California governor in 2003, though his image did appear in 2009’s “Terminator Salvation,” which came out while he was in office. He’s since returned to acting. In “The New Celebrity Attendance,” famous contestants like comedian Jon Lovitz and singer Vince Neil will compete on behalf of charities.

— With assistance by Anousha Sakoui, and Christopher Palmeri

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