Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
Variety managing editor Cynthia Littleton reported “Donald Trump will remain an exec producer on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice,” creating a conflict of interest for NBC’s ability to provide unbiased coverage of Trump while promoting a show built on Trump’s reputation.
On December 8, Variety reported “Trump’s fees will be paid through MGM, the production entity on the show, not NBC,” but “the fact that a sitting president will be on the payroll of a current TV show is another example of the thicket of potential conflicts of interest raised by Trump’s segue from a private businessman and TV star to commander-in-chief.”
Donald Trump will remain an exec producer on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, which is returning Jan. 2 after a two-year hiatus with new host Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The larger issue for MGM, NBC, and the White House is the payment that Trump will receive for the series. It’s unclear what his per-episode fee is, but it is likely to be in the low five-figures, at minimum. NBC has ordered eight episodes of The New Celebrity Apprentice. Trump’s fees will be paid through MGM, the production entity on the show, not NBC. MGM declined to comment on the financial terms of Trump’s deal. A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NBC declined to comment.
The fact that a sitting president will be on the payroll of a current TV show is another example of the thicket of potential conflicts of interest raised by Trump’s segue from private businessman and TV star to commander-in-chief. However, past presidents have published books during their time in the White House, so there is precedent for a president earning royalties while in office. In the case of President Obama’s 2010 book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, his profits from the Alfred A. Knopf publication were donated to a charity supporting the children of disabled veterans.
In continuing their financial relationship with Trump, NBC will invite skepticism into how NBC and MSNBC can fairly cover the sitting president when there is a financial incentive to protect his reputation and the ratings of the Celebrity Apprentice. Furthermore, Trump and NBC should address the conflict of interest concerns raised by the fact advertisers may help to personally enrich President-elect Donald Trump by purchasing ads during Celebrity Apprentice.
NBC should move to address concerns raised by Variety’s reporting, and publicly state how it will balance its financial relationship with Trump while maintaining the network’s journalistic legitimacy.