President-elect Donald Trump spent a little time Friday morning mocking the ratings for “The New Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC and his successor as host of the show, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got ‘swamped’ (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT,” Trump (or whoever was handling his Twitter account at the moment) tweeted early Friday.
Leaving aside the motivation behind the tweet, or whether it’s “presidential,” Trump’s statement about “Apprentice” ratings being down is, in fact, true. It also marks a fairly rare instance in which Trump’s boasts about the show’s ratings actually line up with the facts.
Monday’s premiere of “The New Celebrity Apprentice” earned a 1.3 rating among adults 18-49 and just under 5 million viewers. That’s down about 46 percent in the 18-49 demographic and 27 percent in viewers from the premiere of the last Trump-fronted “Celebrity Apprentice” in January 2015 (2.4 and 6.81 million viewers).
Trump, incidentally, is credited as an executive producer of “The New Celebrity Apprentice.” Schwarzenegger, for his part, replied, “There is nothing more important than the people’s work. … I wish you the best of luck and I hope you’ll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings.”
As for the “ratings machine” part of the president-elect’s tweet — well, that’s on less solid ground.
Trump repeatedly claimed during the show’s run that “The Apprentice” was the “No. 1 show on TV,” or at least No. 1 on NBC. He did it in 2011 during a “Today” interview, and as recently as 2015, a few months before he announced his candidacy for president.
But Trump’s decade-plus-long claims that he had the top show on TV were mostly false. “The Apprentice” was indeed an unqualified hit early in its life, and it did rank No. 1 among adults 18-49 the week of its first-season finale in April 2004. It was also the top-rated new show of 2003-04 in the 18-49 demo.
But no iteration of “The Apprentice” ever finished first on all of TV for a full season, and only Season 1 even came close. That year it finished fifth in adults 18-49 (behind the final season of “Friends,” both weekly episodes of “American Idol” and “ER”) and seventh in total viewers.
Seasons 2 and 3 of the show, both of which aired in 2004-05, both finished in the Top 15 in adults 18-49 and viewers. After that, no cycle of either “The Apprentice” or “The Celebrity Apprentice” ranked higher than 17th in adults 18-49 for the season or higher than 38th in viewers.
Trump claimed “The Celebrity Apprentice” was No. 1 to a roomful of reporters at the winter 2015 TV press tour, and was corrected pretty swiftly: A few reporters pointed out that the show wasn’t even tops on the night it aired. Trump shrugged it off, replying, “That’s what I was told.”