NBC Chief Talks Separation From Donald Trump, Pushes 'Celebrity Apprentice' Back to 2016-17 Season

"Whether you agree with anything he says, he says it without any kind of filter," NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said when asked about Donald Trump's controversial remarks about immigrants.
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NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt opened up about the network's recent decision to sever ties with Donald Trump at the network's Television Critics Association summer press tour Thursday.

Greenblatt announced that Celebrity Apprentice, which most recently aired last winter, will not be back for the upcoming 2015-16 television season.

However, the NBC chief sounded confident about the reality show's long-term future, saying it will be back for the 2016-17 season. Greenblatt added that the network has been "overwhelmed by a number of really exciting people" hoping to fill the host spot left vacant by Trump. "As soon as we settle on someone, we will get the word out, and something tells me it will be big news," he said.

NBC severed all ties with Trump in July after he made what NBC deemed to be "derogatory statements" about Mexican immigrants. In addition to cutting Trump from Celebrity Apprentice, the network also dropped the Miss USA pageant — which instead aired on Reelz Channel on July 12 — as well as the Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA pageants. Both pageants had aired on NBC for the previous 11 years.

"I don’t know that we've even thought beyond The Apprentice and pageant businesses," said Greenblatt. "I don’t think somebody who, you know, is running for president and might possibly be the next leader of the free world could be banned from any activities at NBC, but we have to see how this plays out. I honesty don’t know what else he might want to do business[-wise] with us. At the moment, we're sort of separated."

In a June 16 speech annoucing his presidential campaign, Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" bringing drugs and crime into the U.S. "The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. ... When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best," said Trump. "They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

When asked about the attention that has surrounded Trump since he announced his run for the White House, Greenblatt spoke of Trump's candor. "I guess people are just, in the political world, looking for somebody who just speaks their mind, regardless of anything else. He does that," said Greenblatt. "Whether you agree with anything he says, he says it without any kind of filter, and you also get the sense that he doesn't have a big [group] of people around him who are messaging him or handling him and there's something refreshing about that. At a certain point you have to look at the message and … draw your own conclusions. The world likes a star, and he is a star."

Celebrity Apprentice has continued to be a solid ratings performer for NBC. The most recent season averaged a 2.4 rating among adults 18-49 despite the nearly yearlong gap between the start of production in early 2014 and the season's debut in January 2015. The show was renewed in February.

"He is a lovely guy. He was very much a collaborator and worked with us closely on Celebrity Apprentice and, you know, is a really effusive, great guy. We weren’t in any sort of adversarial position. There were no controversies," said Greenblatt. "It was a congenial, really great relationship."

Despite their professional separation, Greenblatt said that Trump is "absolutely" welcome on NBC's late-night talk shows because he is running for office.

However, NBC's top brass shut down any chance of Trump returning as the host of the reality series down the road. When asked by a reporter, Greenblatt simply responded, "Absolutely not."