Trump Tells National Prayer Breakfast to "Pray for Arnold" and 'Apprentice' Ratings

The president joined Mark Burnett at an annual event in Washington on Thursday.

Donald Trump joined former Apprentice producer Mark Burnett at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday.

The president couldn't resist talking about his former reality TV show and taking a shot at his replacement as host, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Speaking to the crowd, Trump mused about the "great success" he had with Burnett on The Apprentice and slammed the "big movie star" Burnett replaced him with.

"We know how that turned out," he said to laughs. "The ratings went right down the tubes. It's been a total disaster. And Mark will never ever bet against Trump again."

The president then added, smiling and laughing afterward, "And I want to just pray for Arnold if we can, for those ratings."

Schwarzenegger was quick to respond, posting a video to Twitter in which he suggested that the two trade places.

"Why don't we switch jobs? You take over TV since you're such an expert in ratings, and I take over your job," he said. "Then people can finally sleep comfortably again."

Schwarzenegger is constitutionally barred from running for president because he wasn't born in the United States, but the actor-turned-politician, who previously served as governor of California, mused ahead of the 2016 election that if he were allowed to run he would have done so.

Just days after Schwarzenegger's Apprentice debuted, Trump took to Twitter to bash the new iteration of the reality show and his replacement host.

Trump, who had pledged to "drain the swamp" in Washington as president, said Schwarzenegger got "swamped, aka destroyed" and was no match for himself, saying he's a "ratings machine."

Trump then added, "So much for being a movie star" and took a swipe at the actor's support for two of Trump's former opponents, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Hillary Clinton.

The ratings for the first episode of the Schwarzenegger-hosted New Celebrity Apprentice were down 35 percent compared with the show's premiere in 2015.

Trump, however, is still involved in the series, retaining his executive producer credit and remaining a profit participant.

Schwarzenegger said ahead of the election that he wouldn't be voting for the Republican candidate for president for the first time. But after Trump was elected, the new Apprentice host said he supported the then-president-elect and encouraged Trump to work with both political parties. He also took the high road in his response to Trump's ratings dis, writing in part, "I wish you the best of luck and I hope you'll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings."

Recently, though, Schwarzenegger criticized Trump's controversial immigration ban.

Burnett introduced Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast, which brings together faith leaders, politicians and dignitaries. The Apprentice producer remained mum throughout Trump's presidential campaign on whether he was supporting the former reality TV host. He said in October that he was not "a supporter of Donald Trump's candidacy" and was "not 'pro-Trump.'"

But that didn't stop people from criticizing Burnett and others involved with The Apprentice for helping Trump become a bigger star prior to his presidential run.

As rumors have swirled about Apprentice tapes in which Trump is allegedly heard using the n-word, Trump's critics have urged Burnett and others involved with the MGM-produced franchise to release the incriminating video.

Watch the video of Trump's National Prayer Breakfast remarks and Schwarzenegger's video response on Twitter here.

In addition to his tweet, Schwarzenegger said through a spokesperson, in a statement obtained by ABC News, that he hopes Trump can "start improving his own approval ratings … by taking his job seriously and working inclusively."

During a White House news conference later on Thursday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked if Trump's remarks were appropriate for the occasion. Calling it a "lighthearted moment," Spicer replied: "If you look at the totality of his remarks, they were absolutely beautiful."

He added of the coverage of Trump's remarks, "To hone in on that, it was a lighthearted moment he was trying to have with a big supporter of the National Prayer Breakfast and a personal friend." 

 

Trump continued to attack Schwarzenegger on Twitter on Friday morning, saying his Apprentice replacement "did a really bad job as Governor of California and even worse on the Apprentice...but at least he tried hard!"

Feb. 2, 10:38 a.m. This story has been updated to include Sean Spicer's remarks at Thursday's White House press conference.

Feb. 3, 6:48 a.m. Updated with Trump's Friday-morning tweet attacking Schwarzenegger

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