‘Celebrity Apprentice’ Press Conference: Schwarzenegger Defends Trump’s Producer Role, Mark Burnett Ducks Questions

Arnold Schwarzenegger Defends Donald Trump 'Celebrity Apprentice' Producer Credit
Luis Trinh/NBC

“The New Celebrity Apprentice” host Arnold Schwarzenegger indicated Friday that president-elect Donald Trump could have had close involvement with the show’s producers or NBC on production of its upcoming season, which was shot during the presidential campaign.

Taking questions from a small group of reporters following a press conference Friday at Universal Studios, Schwarzenegger was asked whether Trump, who will retain an executive-producer credit on the upcoming season, was involved with production on the rebooted show.

“Not with me,” he answered. “It could easily be that he was involved with NBC or with Mark Burnett, but not with me.”

Schwarzenegger indicated that Trump’s level of involvement in the franchise going forward is yet to be decided.

“I think that he has to work it out how much he wants to participate or not,” he said. “I think this a question that you should ask him, because he could just be sitting back, being a silent partner or whatever.”

During the press conference, Schwarzenegger compared Trump’s continued involvement in the NBC reality-competition series to his own transition from film actor to governor of California more than a decade ago.

“It’s no different than when I was running for governor and I was governor,” Schwarzenegger said. “My credit on ‘Terminator’ stays the same.” He added that he continued to collect royalties from his film work while serving as governor.

Not appearing at the press conference Friday was executive producer and series creator Mark Burnett. An invite sent to press one week ago noted that Burnett would appear alongside Schwarzenegger and the show’s contestants.

As Variety reported exclusively Thursday, Trump will retain an executive producer credit on “The New Celebrity Apprentice.” It remains unclear how much Trump will profit from the series, but his per-episode rate is expected to be, at minimum, in the low five figures.

Trump will receive payments through MGM, which produces the reality-competition series and where Burnett is television chief.

“Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett,” Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks said in a statement Thursday.

Schwarzenegger said that he knew when he agreed to take over the role as host of the series after Trump vacated it to launch his presidential campaign last year that the now-president-elect would continue to serve as executive producer.

“I knew that from the beginning that he’s executive producer on the show,” said Schwarzenegger. “That was on the credit when you watched the show.”

Asked Friday about Trump’s prospects for success in the White House, Schwarzenegger, a fellow Republican, pleaded for patience.

“I think you have to give him a chance,” he said. “I don’t think you can judge anything after one month. Let us watch him go and get started before we start to judge him.” Schwarzenegger also refused to address questions about whether he would use his involvement in the show as leverage to influence Trump politically, or whether Trump would try to use his own involvement in the show — the new season of which has already been shot — to try to influence its content from the White House. “I don’t get into hypotheticals of ‘what is if Trump calls?’ or ‘what is if Trump says this?'” he said.

Appearing on Fox News this afternoon, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who advised Trump during the campaign and was a considered as a potential running mate, criticized the president elect’s decision to serve as a producer on a television show as he prepares to take office. “He doesn’t need his name in print. Donald J. Trump is going to be the executive producer of a thing called the American government and he is going have this a huge TV show called leading the world,” Gingrich said to Fox News host Neil Cavuto.

“The New Celebrity Apprentice” premieres Jan. 2 on NBC. Trump will be inaugurated as president Jan. 20.