WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump sought prayers Thursday for Arnold Schwarzenegger over ratings for “Celebrity Apprentice”—the show Trump once hosted and which he said has become a “total disaster” since the former California governor took over the franchise.
Trump harkened back to his days as a reality TV sensation during an address to the National Prayer Breakfast.
“When I ran for president, I had to leave the show,” Trump told the audience of more than 2,000 people. “They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes.”
“It’s been a total disaster, and Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again,” the president said, referring to Mark Burnett, the show’s producer. “I want to just pray for Arnold if we can.” Burnett introduced Trump at the breakfast.
Schwarzenegger responded quickly in a brief video on his Twitter account, in which the “Terminator” star suggests that he and Trump switch jobs.
“You take over TV because you’re such an expert in ratings,” Schwarzenegger says in the video, captioned “The National Prayer Breakfast?” ”And I take over your job and then people can finally sleep comfortably again. Hmm?”
Schwarzenegger’s premiere night audience for “Celebrity Apprentice” in early January was a disappointing 5 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company. Viewership dropped to 3.9 million viewers in the second week.
The season-to-date average for the first month was 4.7 million viewers, compared to 7.6 million viewers for Trump’s final season as host in winter 2015.
Trump is still listed as an executive producer of “Celebrity Apprentice” and retains a financial stake in the NBC program, so he has incentive to want high viewership.
Thursday was not the first time Trump criticized Schwarzenegger over the show’s ratings. Trump tweeted last month that Schwarzenegger was “swamped” in his “Celebrity Apprentice” debut “by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT.”
“So much for being a movie star,” said Trump’s tweet, which continued: “But who cares, he supported Kasich and Hillary.”
Schwarzenegger did endorse Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the Republican presidential primaries, but he did not endorse Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.