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Donald Trump Says The Apprentice’s Future Is Still Rosie, Er, Rosey

Controversy couldn’t have come at a better time for Donald Trump. With a new season of The Apprentice airing this month, his public feud with Rosie O’Donnell only reinvigorated the formulaic reality show. O’Donnell was upset that Trump let Miss USA Tara Conner keep her crown, despite sexual and alcoholic indiscretions. He fired back and held his ground as people in the media from Meredith Vieira and Larry King to the entire Television Critics Association kept asking him about it.

It’s all unrelated to the televised search for a Trump Company hire. This year’s Apprentice brings Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump into the boardroom and puts the competitors in tents. It’s moved from New York to Los Angeles, in time for the rainy cold season. They even changed the format, with team leaders holding their position until they fail at a task.

Gossip junkies and reality TV aficionados can both get their fix as Donald Trump remains in the spotlight.

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Hollywood.com: How has having your kids on the show changed things?
Donald Trump:
It’s been very different. It’s been wonderful. I enjoy doing it. Obviously, they’re my kids and you know how I feel. They’ve really added a lot. They went to the Wharton School of Finance. They were terrific students. They did really well. They’ve done very well in business, and I think it’s added something very exciting into the show.

HW: How do you take input from them versus George and Carol?
DT:
Well, George is always going to be involved. You know George is still with me and George is a great lawyer actually, but to go to California for George was a big thing so that couldn’t have worked out. I could see George coming back a lot in the next one if it’s in New York. I think that having my children involved makes it more interesting from my standpoint.

HW: What exactly are the rules of Tent City?
DT:
They’re not allowed in the house at any time and that’s what I mean. It really gets rough out there. You’ll see that in future episodes. It’s a mess. It’s disgusting. It really becomes absolutely disgusting.

HW: What does it say about the contenders if they complain a tent in Southern California is like a third-world country?
DT:
Well, I think it probably is very much of a third-world experience, if you look at what happens. You’ll see what I mean. It’s an incentive to win. It’s an incentive not to live there and to go inside, and I think it really works.

HW: Is that all filmed already, or are they still facing this cold front?
DT:
No, they’re lucky. They’re very lucky it’s all complete. As you know, the finale is live but other than that, they’re all complete.

HW: With this new concept of being leader until you lose, how will you learn if anyone else is a good leader?
DT:
Well, it is something a little bit different, but it does give you an incentive to be a project manager. When you’re project manager and you lose, it’s very hard to overcome that and you really have a big disadvantage in the boardroom in terms of making it or in terms of being fired. So this gives somebody the incentive that, yes, if they lose, they have a problem, but if they win, they have an additional incentive. And we think it’s something that’s worked out very well. People really like it.

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HW: With these new tasks, what does designing a bathing suit have to do with the real estate job they’re applying for?
DT:
It’s still business. It’s design, it’s business, whether it’s a bathing suit or whether it’s a building. And if you remember, Season One was lemonade. You were going to make and sell lemonade. That’s the ultimate basic. [Now], we have sponsors for every show times ten. What they wanted to do, however, is get away from Lexus, get away from Priceline, all of which are on the show by the way, get away from General Motors, get away from all of the people, Procter and Gamble, Levi Strauss. We have them all on the show [but] get away from them for a few episodes. Go into something like we did the first week and just go back to that basic thing that we did on Season One and to a little extent on Season Two. The difference was on Season Two, everybody wanted to be on the show. I had a deal with a certain big designer, a very big designer, to go on the show on Season One. Then he said, “Donald, supposing the show is a failure. I don’t want to be associated with it. I just don’t want to be on the show.” The one guy that wanted to be on the show, because I was doing it, was George Steinbrenner. On Season Two, everybody wanted to be on it and it became much more commercial in that sense. What we did is, on Season Six, we cut back about four shows where we go back to the basics. But essentially we went back to the basics of lemonade and not necessarily selling cares for General Motors, etc.

HW: Okay, we have to bring up the Rosie feud.
DT:
I’m shocked.

HW: Do you think it’s gone too far, I mean attacking Barbara Walters and The View itself?
DT:
Well, I was disappointed in Barbara because Barbara called me from Europe on her vacation and she made certain statements, which she knows she made, and she never refuted those statements. It’s interesting, she read a little line that Rosie gave her that was sort of sad the way she read it because it was just a sad situation. But she read that line, but she never refuted the things that she said and I had to do that. You know, if somebody attacks you, if somebody attacks you as a critic or as a writer or anything else, a lot of the folks in this room will defend themselves. Not everybody because it’s different personality types. And maybe in certain ways the people that don’t defend themselves are better off. Who knows? But I have always defended myself and Rosie attacked me and she was wrong and she probably knew she was wrong and I’m pretty sure she knew she was wrong, but she attacked various elements of me. She was wrong in all cases and I thought somebody should fight back. I have watched her attack people over the years and I watch as they don’t fight back. She’s a bully. I watched where they don’t fight back. The one thing I have learned—and I learned it before high school–when you’re attacked by a bully, you hit the bully hard right between the eyes. Hard and fast. And that’s what I did.

HW: Has your public image been damaged?
DT:
By Rosie? No. I think it’s been helped. No, I think it’s been helped. I mean, it shows that if somebody says something bad and it’s a lie, then you are willing to correct that person and fight for yourself. And you know, I watched Danny DeVito, who I love, I watched him get decimated by his recent problem on that show. I watched Kelly Ripa, who I think is terrific, I did their show the other day. It was disgusting the way she was treated by Rosie O’Donnell. I watched Tom Selleck years ago, and I was watching him sit there and he walks in for a movie, and he ends up like, “What happened?” And I think they respect the fact that I fought back and fought back much harder than she did. I think they respect what I said about her. They understand what I said was true. And Fox recently did a poll where I had 91 percent of the vote. 91 percent. So not everybody is going to agree, and some people thought I was very harsh. But Rosie is a slob and I let people know it.

HW: Do you have any advice for the Grey’s Anatomy cast dealing with their feud?
DT:
There’s a difference. They’re on the same team. I’m not on the same team with a Rosie O’Donnell so I can call her what I want to call her. If you’re on the same team, it’s different and I hope that doesn’t happen because that could be destructive. Having a feud on the same team is a bad thing, not a good thing.

HW: Do you feel bad that ratings for The View have gone up?
DT:
I feel badly for me. The ratings of The View went up because of me. I feel terrible about it. But let me tell you what’s going to happen. In two weeks, you people won’t be asking this question anymore and the ratings on The View will tank. Barbara Walters hates Rosie O’Donnell. There will be turmoil and it will go back to where it was. But sadly, and I have to apologize to [NBC execs] Kevin Reilly and Jeff Zucker. Sadly, I’ve increased the ratings of The View. When this stops, the ratings on The View will tank because I watched it the other day for the first time in a long time. I’ve been on The View many times, unfortunately. In fact, Barbara Walters chose me last year as one of her 10 most whatever the hell people—most fascinating people. But the ratings on The View, if you look at what’s happened, watch that without all the turmoil. It’s a very boring show. Is that a nice answer?

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HW: The ratings for The Apprentice have kind of dropped off, as well. What’s your take on it?
DT:
Well, I don’t think people are tired of it because people are talking about it and I think the new one is really good. I think with Don and Ivanka it adds some spice and some good things. If you look at the first week, first of all, we were on for the third different time, which is tough. We were on Thursday. We did terrifically on Thursday. As you know, for many weeks, we were the No. 1 show on television, and it did terrifically and then we got moved to a Monday. It did fine and then we got moved to Sunday. So we’ve been on all these different times, which is not easy. The other thing that was tough, I think, is in the first week we started at 9:30 instead of 9, and despite that, in the last period of time, we were the No. 1 demographic for the evening. Now, [the second] week was different because even I was watching the Patriots. I was at the game and I was watching Tom Brady and everybody else and they had a tremendous [audience], like 33 million people watching, and the opening of 24 and you had Desperate Housewives. So you had Desperate Housewives, 24 opening and a great football game that went right to the end, and we still did OK. It wasn’t like a disaster, but it was certainly not like the numbers we did in Seasons 1 and 2, but it did fine. I’m not saying I loved Sunday evening, but I have great respect for NBC. I have great respect for the people running NBC and the talent running NBC. I think ultimately they’re going to be right. I think Sunday is going to be a very good time slot, but we have two weeks where it’s very brutal competition. Then we’ll be more normalized, and I think we’ll settle into a very good number. We did over a 4. I think we did a 4.1 in the first week. And the other thing about The Apprentice that’s interesting is last season they had three Apprentices on and a friend of mine who’s involved with American Idol said, “If we ever put three American Idols on in one season, we’d have no franchise left.” We had three, including the Martha Stewart fiasco. So that’s pretty tough to come out of and despite that, we led the hour in the first week. So the thing that I’ve seen about The Apprentice to me is most interesting, and if you look at every one of them, including Season 1, the early weeks are always the lowest and they build, build, build. Consistently they build. And if you look at last season, season four, The Apprentice finale with Randal was the No. 2 show of the entire week.

HW: First season winner Bill Rancic is on the show now. What are the other Apprentice winners doing?
DT:
First of all, I want to give Bill a lot of credit. He was fantastic. And if you remember, the show is really about a one-year apprenticeship and Bill worked in Chicago. He lives in Chicago and a lot of people thought he was crazy for taking Chicago, getting this building started and now its up to the 45th floor. It’s a 90-story building. But he took that as opposed to a golf club that was almost complete on the Pacific Ocean. I’m not sure that Bill made the right decision, but if Bill’s happy, I’m happy. I probably would have chosen the golf club. And Bill has done a great job. The other people have also done very well. I could tell you [but] I think I won’t say it because I don’t want to set off a riot. But I could say if I was to grade them, some were great and some were less than great. No disasters. But they have all worked for me for a year. Randal is just finishing up and he’s really been very outstanding and a good guy. They have all been, in their own way they all have great assets and they’re all doing different things. But again, with the exception of Bill, and now Randal is probably going to be extended for another year. But Bill I extended actually for two years because he really was very outstanding and did a terrific job for me.

HW: How do the The Apprentice hires fit into the Trump Organization? Are they at an advantage or disadvantage from normal hires?
DT:
Well, it’s a great question. I’ve actually hired some of the losing contestants from The Apprentice. I actually use it, in a way, it’s better than just going out interviewing somebody for 15 minutes saying, “Oh, you went to Harvard. That’s wonderful. And you did this and that and you’re hired.” And you see them for five minutes. I’ve gotten to know a lot of these people. Andy Litinsky was fired, you remember he was the young man from Harvard. He was the national debating champion, who got killed by two of the women that debated against him