Society

Trump Will Keep Role As 'Celebrity Apprentice' Producer

| by Robert Fowler

In addition to assuming the duties of the Oval Office, President-elect Donald Trump will continue his role as an executive producer of the NBC reality television series "The New Celebrity Apprentice." The business mogul's continued involvement with the television show has left several ethics lawyers concerned about potential conflicts of interest.

On Dec. 8, MGM confirmed that Trump would continue to receive payment as an executive producer of the reality series that he had previously hosted, The Huffington Post reports.

"Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett," said Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks in an official statement. "Additional details regarding his business interests will be shared December 15th."

Trump had hosted the reality series for years, his role as the business-savvy judge helping cement his public image as a consummate negotiator. After the business mogul made a series of controversial comments on the campaign trail, NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt publicly stated that he would never be welcomed back.

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On Oct. 14, former "The Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos accused Trump of sexually assaulting her back in 2007. The president-elect has vehemently denied Zervos' accusation, along with the allegations of over 10 other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.

The television series is set to return in January 2017 with former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California as a new host. On Nov. 28, Trump asserted that he had played a role in the movie star's selection.

"We chose Arnold Schwarzenegger to do it, and we'll see how that works out," Trump told Time Magazine.

Several ethics lawyers have voiced concerns over Trump receiving a paycheck from the MGM-produced television show, noting that its broadcast network is owned by a company that the president-elect will soon have control over. NBC, the broadcast network that airs the show, is owned by Comcast, a corporation that is regulated by the Federal Communications Communication (FCC).

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"First, being president is a full-time job, leaving no room for a side gig as a reality-show producer," political law expert Paul S. Ryan of watchdog group Common Cause told The Washington Post. "Second, the president-elect will have an obvious conflict of interest, drawing a paycheck from a major media corporation that his administration has the job of overseeing."

Richard W. Painter, a former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, asserted that Trump's continued involvement in the television series is a step in the wrong direction.

"We were hoping he would start reducing his conflicts of interest," Painter said. "But he's adding to them. This is not a good idea."

Members of the Trump team have pointed to President Barack Obama's continued royalty payments from his books during his presidency as a precedent for Trump's arrangement with MGM. Painter countered that Obama was receiving paychecks for work he had completed before the presidency, while Trump had indicated that he will continue to have a hand in the television show.

Mark Burnett, the producer of "The Apprentice," is currently helping Trump plan his inauguration, reportedly floating ideas of holding a parade when the business mogul takes the oath of office, according to The New York Times.

During the 2016 campaign season, Burnett had allegedly suppressed archive footage of the reality series that would have been unflattering to Trump. Former crew members of the series have asserted that the president-elect's behavior behind the scenes of the show could have potentially damaged his campaign had they been made public.

On Dec. 9, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway defended his continued participation in the television series during an interview with CNN.

“I mean presidents have a right to do things in their spare time, in their leisure time,” Conway said.

Sources: CNNThe Huffington Post (2), The New York TimesTime MagazineThe Washington Post / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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