Donald Trump is calling “fake news” on CNN’s report that he is staying on as the executive producer of “The New Celebrity Apprentice” — even though the creator of the series confirmed the information and Trump’s own spokeswoman suggested he would stay.
Kellyanne Conway said in an on-air CNN interview Friday that if lawyers give Trump the go-ahead, “then he’s probably going to say, why not’ remain as a producer of the popular reality TV franchise.
As the for expected extra work involved, Conway denied it would detract from Trump’s job as president, comparing the time to the amount President Barack Obama spends golfing. “Presidents have a right to do things in their spare time,” Conway said.
A representative for MGM, the studio that produces the program for NBC, told Variety on Thursday that Trump will continue to be credited as an executive producer. MGM refused to discuss Trump’s fees, but they could be in the “six figures,” Variety reported. Trump hosted the popular “Apprentice” series for more than a decade before his presidential campaign.
But following surprised reactions and renewed concerns about potential conflicts of interest ― with even Newt Gingrich calling such a dual role “weird” ― Trump is now insisting that he won’t spend any time on the job. He lashed out against CNN in a tweet Saturday, calling its report “fake news” and “ridiculous,” which he initially misspelled as “rediculous.”
He conceded in another tweet that he has a “big stake” in the program but insisted that he will devote “zero time” to it.
A continued “big stake” alone worries critics concerned about a conflict of interest. It would pose challenges to a president expected to make impartial decisions about media and entertainment legislation or choices that could affect companies that are buying ads on a program he’s profiting from. Trident gum, Welch’s and Carnival Cruise Line have signed on as sponsors of the show, according to NBC.
The relationship poses problems for NBC as well. Its news division covers the president-elect and the network is home to “Saturday Night Live,” which has heavily criticized Trump.
The New York Times reported Friday that Trump Productions, the Trump company that “associates with ‘The Apprentice,’” earned about $5.9 million from January 2015 to May 2016, according to the president-elect’s financial disclosure documents.
The program starts up again Jan. 2 following a two-year hiatus. It will be hosted by actor and former Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger, who compared Trump’s situation to his own status as an actor and a governor, defended the president-elect, saying at a press conference that it’s up to Trump how much he wants to participate.
“It’s no different than when I ... became governor. My credit starring in ‘Terminator’ still stayed the same and I continued getting royalties and all that stuff,” he said, according to Us Weekly.
Gingrich said Friday that it was “weird” Trump wanted to do both jobs. “He is going to be the executive producer of the American government and a huge TV show called ‘Leading the World,’” Gingrich added, suggesting that Trump turn over his producer role to his children.
“The Apprentice” series hasn’t always been kind to Trump.
Earlier this year, former staffers and participants on the show came forward with accusations of inappropriate, crude and sexist behavior by Trump during filming.