Embattled Republican President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday morning to call reports he would remain an executive producer on The Apprentice reboot The New Celebrity Apprentice "FAKE NEWS!", even as media observers (as well as some Trump loyalists) criticized his continued involvement with the NBC reality series.
"I have NOTHING to do with The Apprentice except for fact that I conceived it with [Mark Burnett] & have a big stake in it," the president-elect wrote. "Will devote ZERO TIME!"
As Variety first reported, the executive producer credit likely entitles Trump to a five-figure sum for each episode of the new version of the show, which is hosted by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The New York Times noted the executive producer role is "widely considered a passive one" in which the president-elect will not actively work on the show.
But as president, Trump will continue to collect revenue while Federal Communications Commission regulators who report to him oversee NBC's parent company, Comcast. The deal also creates at a minimum the impression of a serious ethical issue for NBC, whose prime TV property will be lining Trump's pockets even as the network's news division covers his presidency.
NBC allegedly cut all business ties with Trump in June 2015, though according to Variety Trump will be paid through media company MGM rather than by NBC directly. But according to CNN Money, Trump's deal could include a slice of branding or product placement revenue, potentially creating a backdoor for corporations to curry favor with his administration.
Some members of Trump's own party aren't backing him in this latest fight.
In a Fox News interview, the Times reported, former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said "I think it's weird. Donald J. Trump is going to be the executive producer of a thing called the American government. He is going to have this huge TV show called 'Leading the World' ... I think he's still going through some transition things here, where it hasn't quite sunk in."