"Baggage": Schwarzenegger quits "Celebrity Apprentice" over Trump

Forget Oprah. If you want a celebrity presidential showdown that’ll be truly lit, repeal the natural-born requirement in the Constitution and let Arnold run as an independent in 2020. Republicans would only benefit from it, I suspect. The anti-Trump vote would divide between the Democratic nominee and Schwarzenegger, and Trump would cruise to reelection. Plus, the drama. Oh, the drama. Two mega-famous mega-alpha males squaring off alongside whatever the left coughs up? It’d be the greatest reality show ever, especially if Winfrey ends up as Democratic nominee.

Trump goofed on Schwarzenegger a few weeks before taking office for his poor ratings as new “Apprentice” host. Maybe so, but that’s not the show’s main problem:

A campaign called #GrabYourWallet, which called on sponsors to abandon the show because of President Donald Trump’s involvement with it, said six of the show’s 12 corporate backers from last season have agreed not to return. None of the companies explicitly cited Trump as their reason, but campaign organizer Shannon Coulter says the gold-plated writing is on the wall.

“I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the Trump brand name is toxic,” she told TheWrap.

Five of the six companies confirmed for TheWrap that they’d dropped the show, for which Trump remains an executive producer. Schwarzenegger mentioned that in explaining why he’s dropping it too:

“It’s not about the show,” he explained. “because everyone I ran into came up to me and said ‘I love the show… but I turned it off because as soon as I read Trump’s name I’m outta there!'”…

“When people found out that Trump was still involved as executive producer and was still receiving money from the show, then half the people [started] boycotting it.”…

“Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline.” Said Schwarzenegger. “With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or as a sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period now and I think this show got caught up in all that division.”

He put out a statement today mentioning … “baggage”:

Three possibilities now, apart from the obvious one of simply ending the show. One: They bring in another celebrity alpha male as host, although whether there’s anyone who can fill this niche easily is unclear. If you’re looking for a brash, camera-savvy billionaire with reality-show experience, Mark Cuban’s the obvious choice, but would he give up “Shark Tank” for the headache of dealing with Trump’s “baggage” over at “Celebrity Apprentice”? The only upside for Cuban would be if he scored higher ratings than Trump, but even then the show would be known as a Trump product more than a Cuban one. Cuban’s got his own niche at “Shark Tank.” He won’t do it.

Two: Give it to the only people who’d drum up audience interest and who’d be willing to risk an advertiser boycott driven by antipathy to Trump himself. That’s Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. If Ivanka can’t or won’t do it because it would complicate her role in the White House, the two sons could. But the show might not work without her; she’s the most famous Trump child by far. Throw a bunch of money at her to quit her White House role and do this instead and you’d get an audience of curiosity-seekers, some sporadic promotion by the White House (conflict of interest laws be damned), and possibly an influx of new advertisers who either want to ingratiate themselves to the president or who simply want to make an impression on right-wing customers by defying the left-wing boycott aimed at the family. Ivanka’s the natural choice. But like I say, would she go for it?

Three: Let Trump himself host it again. I’m only half-kidding. It’s insane to think of the president of the United States carving out a few hours a week to do a goofball fake-business show, but if anyone would want to do it — just to show that he could — Trump would. He could resolve to donate all proceeds to charity and could reconfigure the show so that the contest involves public service work of some sort rather than private ventures. They could scale his role on the show way, way back, like a three-minute opening segment explaining that week’s challenge and then a five-minute closing segment in which he fires someone, and tape his bit in an hour each week. You’re sitting there reading that and thinking “that’s ridiculous,” which I know because I’m thinking it too, and yet — it’s possible, isn’t it? Anything is possible now.

The one major drawback: If it got yuuuge ratings, which it probably would, that’d be the only thing he’d want to talk about anymore. He’d be at a summit with Xi Jinping and 80 percent of the conversation would be devoted to how big the audience would be in China if they syndicated the show there.