POSTED: 2:25 a.m. HST, May 3, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 5:33 a.m. HST, May 3, 2011
NBC is continuing Donald Trump’s television series “Celebrity Apprentice” after the New York real estate developer said he intends to run for president.
A spokeswoman for the network’s entertainment division, Rebecca Marks, said “Nothing’s changed,” when asked about the future of the program. She declined to elaborate.
Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg News on May 1 that he had decided “in my mind” to run for president, but wouldn’t make an official announcement before the season finale of his reality television show later this month.
“In my mind, I have already decided,” Trump, 64, said in the telephone interview. “I am going to announce. But I can’t do anything until the show ends.”
The distinction between a decision to run and a formal announcement isn’t relevant under election law, said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center.
“When you’ve decided to run for office, and you’ve accepted or spent more than $5,000, you’re a candidate,” Ryan said. He said Trump’s travels to Iowa and New Hampshire suggest he’s spent some money on exploring a candidacy.
Trump spokeswoman Rhona Graff didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision by NBC, majority-owned by Comcast Corp., could open up its affiliates to demands of equal air time from Trump’s rivals for the 2012 Republican nomination, Ryan said.
“NBC has a lot of thinking to do,” said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington- based group that tracks money in politics. “It’s definitely getting into some sticky territory when you have a person who is all but running for president who’s got a pretty popular platform.”
NBC’s decision to allow the show to run through its scheduled season end on May 22 stands in contrast to actions taken by News Corp.’s Fox News. In March, Fox placed two contributors, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, on leave because both have said they may seek the Republican presidential nomination. Their contracts were terminated May 1.
“Celebrity Apprentice” is one of NBC’s highest-rated shows, attracting about 8 million viewers a week, said Brad Adgate, research director at Horizon Media Inc. in New York. The program can charge similar ad rates to popular shows such as “The Office” while costing far less to produce, he said.
NBC interrupted the showing of the program late on May 1 when President Barack Obama delivered a televised speech from the White House to announce that U.S. military forces had killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Some recent polls have shown Trump at or near the top of a large field of potential Republican candidates. In an April 26 Rasmussen Reports poll, Trump led with support from 19 percent of 1,000 likely Republican primary voters surveyed. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
A Gallup Poll conducted April 15-20 showed Trump tied with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee at 16 percent, atop a list of 15 possible candidates. Gallup questioned 1,047 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The poll had an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Trump gained attention in recent weeks by questioning whether Obama was born in the U.S. and whether he was eligible to be president. He’s also questioned the president’s school grades, suggesting Obama may have gotten special treatment to gain admission to colleges, including Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude.
Obama on April 27 released a long form of his birth certificate showing he was born in Honolulu. Obama said it was time to stop being “distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers” in remarks to reporters about the document.
Trump said in the May 1 interview he was “proud” of prompting the president to issue the birth certificate, reiterating comments he made in a press conference last week.