New 'Apprentice' Host Schwarzenegger on Trump: "I Made Royalties" When Serving as Governor

Donald Trump, Mark Burnett and Arnold Schwarzenegger-Split-Getty-H 2016
Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Barry King/Getty Images; Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Arnold Schwarzenegger said he knew all along that Donald Trump would get an executive producer credit on the new Celebrity Apprentice. He compared the president-elect's situation to his own when he served as California's governor.

"I knew from the beginning that [Trump] is executive producer on the show," Schwarzenegger said during a packed question-and-answer session Friday ahead of the series' January premiere. "It is no different then when I was governor. My credit on Terminator said 'Arnold Schwarzenegger' when I was governor. I made royalties. That didn't change."

The comments came a day after revelations that President-elect Donald Trump will remain a profit participant and an executive producer on the NBC reality show. The announcement that Trump would maintain the title was met with sharp criticism, suggesting that it would be a conflict of interest for the president-elect to be involved in a primetime television show while trying to run the country.

Schwarzenegger deflected that criticism: "I don't think that he's going to be co-hosting with me." Asked if Trump will be directly involved with the show, Schwarzenegger said, "There are so many things to concentrate on and work on in this country that I don't get into hypotheticals."

One person missing from the press conference was show creator Mark Burnett, who previously was scheduled to be there alongside Schwarzenegger and field questions. Burnett also has come under the microscope in recent days, following speculation that he might have a role in planning Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration.

After a two-year hiatus, thanks in large part to Trump's exit from the show, The Celebrity Apprentice returns to NBC on Jan. 2. Schwarzenegger, who takes Trump's seat in the boardroom, is about to kick off an aggressive publicity tour — with appearances scheduled on The Tonight Show and Seth Meyers' New Year's Eve special, to name a couple.

To say that Trump's continued involvement in the show is unprecedented is an understatement. No sitting president has ever had an executive producer credit on a television series or movie while in office. And as much as Kellyanne Conway seemed to imply that Trump's could be an active role, it really can't — for the upcoming season, at any rate. Filming on The Celebrity Apprentice wrapped in March, with post-production largely in the can, as well.

The mere fact that Trump stands to profit from The Celebrity Apprentice, involved or not, is enough to put NBC in a concerning position. Though the network — one that also owns a major news operation — won't be paying him directly, Trump's per-episode fee technically will come out of the licensing fee NBC is paying producer MGM Television. NBC famously severed all ties with Trump in 2015, though the current arrangement disproves that — and stands to get even stickier, should the franchise be renewed beyond the upcoming eight-episode run.