NBC Chairman of Entertainment Robert Greenblatt offered a defense of the network’s Apprentice star, Donald Trump, at a press conference on Sunday. When asked by television journalists about Trump’s increasingly unhinged public persona, Greenblatt, sounding slightly squeamish, said: “That’s a good question. I don’t really know the answer to it. We live in this country where you can sort of say anything you want as long as you’re not harming other people. And he’s got a political belief system. And we talk to him all the time. I really don’t think what he’s doing in his personal life is going to corrupt what’s happening on the show.”
The highly-respected Greenblatt, who before he came to NBC turned Showtime around, inherited Trump from several NBC regimes ago; The Apprentice made its debut in 2004, when the loudmouth entrepreneur was known more for his (always somewhat hazy) business success than his questioning of the president’s birthplace. Once a massive hit, the Celebrity Apprentice version of the show now plugs the Sunday night crater NBC is left with in the winter and spring after football ends. Its ratings for the past several seasons, when NBC was in last place, were only OK. An all-star season premieres on March 3.
Greenblatt continued. “That said, if he sort of becomes somehow hurtful, or says things or does things that somehow cross a line, I guess we would figure out what to do about that…. I just think it comes with the Donald Trump territory.”
A reporter tried to make sure Greenblatt was saying that Trump has not yet crossed the line (despite his calling for a revolution after the reelection of Barack Obama). Paul Telegdy, NBC’s president of alternative and late night programming, answered definitively. “We’re fine with what’s transpired so far.”
The line of questioning ended after Greenblatt joked, “We talked him out of running for president. Wasn’t that good enough?”
Note: Once I got the official transcript for this panel, I added to Greenblatt’s quotations.