How much was Donald Trump worth to NBC as a network personality and franchise host? In 2011, the answer was apparently $500,000—or at least, that’s what the Peacock reportedly shelled out to keep Trump out of the 2012 presidential race, and on the air as host of Celebrity Apprentice.
Former NBC insiders spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the president’s conduct during his time hosting the popular reality franchise—and they didn’t exactly paint a flattering picture. (A representative for NBCUniversal declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment, and a White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request.)
On two occasions, sources said, Trump demanded that in addition to his salary, the network shell out additional money to his foundation in order to secure his participation in the show and its promotion. “Some insiders assumed he pocketed the money,” THR notes, and indeed, that foundation was dissolved by court order last year; the New York attorney general alleged the charity displayed “a shocking pattern of illegality.”
As a TV host, Trump developed an all-consuming obsession with ratings. As of 2017, a framed print-out of an old TV Guide ratings chart hung in the entrance to the Mar-a-Lago. For years after The Apprentice stopped topping the charts, he would continue to insist that the show was No. 1. Throughout that time, the NBC program elevated Trump’s brand as a business-savvy billionaire—and as the network’s once invincible comedy line-up failed to deliver ratings on a par with previous juggernauts like Friends, The Apprentice gave the Peacock the viewership it direly needed.
But those ratings evidently came at a price. In 2007, after NBC had canceled The Apprentice and begun its pivot to Celebrity Apprentice, THR reports Trump demanded a $10,000 Trump Foundation donation to appear at the network’s upfront presentation for ad executives in May.
And the big demand reportedly came a few years later: In 2011, sources tell THR that as network executives begged Trump to stay out of the 2012 presidential race, he demanded an additional $500,000 donation, which they granted. Once again, the stress centered around an upfront presentation—and according to the trade, Trump delayed his decision for as long as possible. NBC’s entertainment chairman at the time, Bob Greenblatt, continued searching for a replacement up until the day before the presentation.
“It just shows his serial bad behavior,” a former NBC exec told THR. “‘I may be your employee and I’m supposed to go [to the upfront presentation] but I’m going to leverage you.’”