Trump To Retain Credit As Executive Producer Of 'Celebrity Apprentice'

Dec 9, 2016
Originally published on December 9, 2016 5:33 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When the new season of the reality TV show "Celebrity Apprentice" premieres January 2 on NBC, a familiar name will be in the credits. Donald Trump will be listed as executive producer. It's another conflict of interest for the president-elect, and NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans says it could be a problem for NBC, too.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: When Donald Trump first announced he was running for president back in June 2015, his statements about Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals led NBC to declare it had ended its business relationships with him. NBC sold its stakes in Trump's Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. It also replaced him as host of "The Celebrity Apprentice" reality TV show with another celebrity-turned-politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE NEW CELEBRITY APPRENTICE")

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Welcome to "The New Celebrity Apprentice." I am the new boss.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Really?

DEGGANS: But it turns out, NBC isn't totally out of the Trump business. Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the president-elect, told NPR about "The Apprentice," quote, "Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett." Mark Burnett is an executive producer of several reality TV hits, including the American version of "Survivor," NBC's "The Voice" and "The Apprentice," where Trump built his fame with a single catchphrase.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE APPRENTICE")

DONALD TRUMP: You're fired.

DEGGANS: Burnett is also president of MGM Television. MGM owns "The Apprentice" franchise. According to The Hollywood Reporter, MGM will pay Trump whatever fees he earns as a producer and profit participant on the show. It's hard to tell how much money the president-elect will earn from "The Apprentice," because Trump hasn't disclosed it and he hasn't released his tax returns. It's also tough to tell how much he'll be involved with the production of the show. Executive producer titles can mean many things. They can designate the most powerful producer on the show or highlight a star with little day-to-day involvement. And while some have compared the issue to past presidents who earned royalties from books while in office, the primary issue here is transparency, both from NBC and the president-elect.

NBC, which declined to comment, didn't disclose Trump's remaining ties to "The Apprentice" when it announced it was severing other business deals with him. And news of Trump's status on "The Apprentice" was first reported by Variety, not NBC News, which covers the Trump administration. As President, Trump could appoint federal regulators who oversee issues involving NBC and its owner Comcast, even while he earns money from "The Apprentice." Trump has announced a news conference December 15 to discuss how he will distance himself from his businesses. Maybe then the public will learn more about his connection to NBC and "The Apprentice." I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.