NBC and Donald Trump Dustup Is Latest in Weak Romance

The network drops mogul’s “Miss USA” pageant and plans to move forward with “Celebrity Apprentice” without any Trumps

donald trump nbc apprentice

Donald Trump has a long history with NBC, but it hasn’t always been happy.

The broadcaster booted Trump Monday from his role on “Celebrity Apprentice,” and announced that it will no longer televise the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants, which are co-owned by corporate parent NBCUniversal and Trump. The move was a response to remarks Trump made Tuesday during his presidential campaign kickoff, referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” who are “bringing drugs” and “bringing crime” to the United States.

But NBC and Trump have not always been in lockstep when it came to handling the “Apprentice” franchise, especially in recent years. For the the seventh and most recent season of “Celebrity Apprentice,” production wrapped in early 2014, but NBC then sat on the finished episodes for roughly a year.

“In terms of actually scheduling the current season, we have a wealth of new material, both scripted and unscripted, and as yet, we haven’t figured out the perfect place for ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ to go,” NBC Alternative and Late Night Programming President Paul Telegdy said at the Television Critics’ Association summer press tour in July, 2014. NBC finally plugged the show in at midseason the following January.

That month at the TCA winter tour, Trump deflected questions about why the network waited so long to schedule the show, saying he was “very busy for the last year, year and a half,” and saying of NBC “they were calling me all the time.”

NBC renewed the show after it finished with a 2.4 live-plus-seven Nielsen rating among adults 18-49–up 26 percent from the previous season in 2013. But no premiere date has been set for next season, and production has yet to start. NBC began to back away from Trump and his presidential campaign two weeks ago–prior to his racist remarks–when the network announced it would “re-evaluate Trump’s role as host of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ should it become necessary.”

Discussing his presidential bid Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” Trump said, “[NBC] would love me not to be doing this.” Of the network and “Celebrity Apprentice,” he added, “Their top people come to my office and say, ‘Please do this with us.’ I’m not doing it.’”

NBC intends to move forward with the series sans Trump and has also indicated that the mogul’s children Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. will not be involved in any future iteration of “Celebrity Apprentice.” The last time a non-Trump filled the “Apprentice” host’s boardroom seat — Martha Stewart in 2005 — Trump was less than thrilled. In an open letter the following year, he called Stewart’s performance “terrible” and said of her show “I knew it would fail as soon as I first saw it — and your low ratings bore me out.” And that was when Trump and NBC still had business together.

(Stewart, for her part, appear to have not yet gotten over the experience. Speaking with Bravo’s Andy Cohen at the 92nd Street Y in 2013, she selected Trump for the “kill” slot in a game of “shag, marry, kill.”)

Trump insisted Monday that his latest dustup with NBC was the result of his decision, not the network’s.

“They did not want me to run. They wanted me to do ‘The Apprentice,’” he said Monday at an event in Chicago. “And now with my statements on immigration which happen to be correct, they are going to take a different stance and that’s OK. Whatever they want to do is OK with me.” He added, “As far as ending the relationship, I have to do that because my view on immigration is much different than the people at NBC.”

That’s not the story according to NBC, but the network should be used to Trump going off-message by now.