NBC Sticks With Donald Trump, Resilient Pitchman

Trump Expands "Celebrity Apprentice"

NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" returns Feb. 12 for its fifth cycle -- and 12th overall in The Apprentice franchise -- upping the number of contestants (to 18) and episodes (to 15). "It's hard to top the past few seasons, but we think we've done it," Donald Trump tells THR of his new cast.

Despite thousands of signatures, Macy's retains the tweeter -- and the network tells THR that in order to fire the "Celebrity Apprentice" star, "he'd have to do something terrible, like join the KKK."

This story first appeared in the Dec. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Donald Trump is proving hard to dump.

The outspoken billionaire has hung on to his job as a Macy's spokesman to the chagrin of online activist Angelo Carusone, who has gathered more than 650,000 signatures with MoveOn.org calling for Trump's ouster because of his Election Night tweets in which he deemed President Obama's re-election "a total sham and a travesty" and said: "Let's fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us."

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According to the online petition, "Macy's says it has a strong obligation to be 'socially responsible,' and 'actions speak louder than words.' "

Meanwhile, NBC execs, wondering whether Carusone will target them next, have been watching the drama unfold as they prepare to shoot another season of Trump's The Celebrity Apprentice, set to return in March.

Will the network tell him, "You're fired"? Don't count on it.

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One high-level NBC insider tells THR the dust-up might boost the show's ratings, which dipped last season. To boot Trump, the insider says, "he'd have to do something pretty terrible, like join the KKK. Just being a silly Republican isn't a firing offense."