Trump spokeswoman says he will produce The Apprentice in his ‘spare time’

When asked whether the future President would be taking a salary from his side gig, Conway punted.

Credit: SCREENSHOT, CNN
Credit: SCREENSHOT, CNN

While President, Donald Trump will still be credited as an executive producer on The Celebrity Apprentice, Variety reported on Thursday.

According to Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, Trump maintains a “big stake” in the show, financially speaking. As the show returns to NBC, President-Elect Trump stands to profit from its success.

Trump is also likely to be paid “in the low five-figures, at minimum” per episode, according to Variety, by though his exact compensation has yet to be determined. His fee will come from MGM, while the show will air on NBC — so as President, Trump will be on the payroll of a show aired on one of the major news networks.

Although NBC’s entertainment and news divisions are separate, this still represents a massive, unprecedented conflict.

On Friday, however, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway dismissed concerns — by comparing Trump’s moonlighting on the reality television show to President Obama playing golf.

President Obama, however, was not accruing financial benefit from playing golf. Nor did his golf habit represent a conflict of interest with a major cable network. And, contrary to Conway’s objection that Obama was allowed a free pass, his golf rounds in fact drew staunch criticism — including criticism from Conway and Trump.

“He’s a very transparent guy, everyone can see what he’s doing,” Conway said of Trump, who has yet to release his tax returns. Host Alisyn Camerota then pointed out that time spent on The Celebrity Apprentice would not be time Trump spent doing his job as President.

“Well, okay, but were we so concerned about the hours and hours and hours spent on the golf course of the current president? I mean, presidents have a right to do things in their spare time, or their leisure time. Nobody objects to that,” said Conway.

While Obama did spend more time strictly on the golf course than his predecessor, President George Bush, he spent far less time on actual vacation. According to a Politifact tally in September, at that time President Obama had spent 217 days on vacation during his eight-year presidency. During his eight-year term, Bush spent 533 days on vacation.

On Friday, Conway did not answer whether or not Trump would be collecting a salary for his “spare time” work on The Celebrity Apprentice.

“I haven’t discussed that with him directly, however, there are many options,” said Conway.

Trump’s involvement with The Celebrity Apprentice represents a conflict not only for the President-Elect, but for NBC as well. Technically speaking, Trump’s involvement with Apprentice stems from MGM and the series’ creator Mark Burnett, but NBC is in business with both of those entities. NBC is also in the business of news — putting the network’s journalists in a terrible ethical situation.

The same company will be both indirectly employing the President, and responsible for reporting on his Presidency. That presents a real problem. How will NBC reporters, for example, cover the conflict created by Trump and his financial relationship with their parent company?

The public got a small taste of this earlier this year. In October, the Washington Post published leaked Access Hollywood footage of Trump bragging about sexual assault. The footage was owned by NBC’s entertainment division. According to reporting by People, NBC executives planned to edit the footage to obscure then-Today host Billy Bush’s involvement, a charge an NBC spokesperson denied.

Trump’s continued involvement with Apprentice also represents an about-face for NBC. During the campaign, the company issued a press release cutting ties with Trump over his statements regarding immigrants. “To that end, the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants, which are part of a joint venture between NBC and Trump, will no longer air on NBC,” the release stated.

The announcement also noted that Trump had already said he would no longer be part of the Apprentice. “He would never be back on Celebrity Apprentice, as long as I’m here,” NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said last year.

Clearly, that has changed.

On a gubernatorial level, there is some precedent for Trump’s involvement with the show while holding elected office: While Governor of Minnesota in 2000, Jesse Ventura moonlighted as an analyst for for Xtreme Football League games.

Ventura initially insisted that his moonlighting wouldn’t interfere with his gubernatorial activities, but his involvement sparked serious ethical questions. Lawmakers later criticized him for taking time off during the legislative session to travel out-of-state and promote the football league. Ventura’s job-approval rating plummeted.

Ventura accepted the controversial employment from Vince McMahon, wrestling magnate and husband of Trump’s current Small Business Administration head Linda McMahon.