This “baggage,” he clarified in an interview with Empire magazine, referred to the show’s continued association with Trump.
“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,” Schwarzenegger said in that interview. “It’s a very divisive period now, and I think this show got caught up in all that division.”
Despite NBC’s best efforts to promote the show, “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,” Schwarzenegger told Empire.
The actor-turned-former California governor has been embroiled in a growing public feud with Trump since January, when Trump took to Twitter to blame Schwarzenegger for the show’s suffering ratings and mocked him for supporting Trump’s political rivals.
Schwarzenegger swiftly struck back.
Trump has repeatedly taunted Schwarzenegger for the show’s drop in ratings, going so far as to ask for prayers for the new host during the National Prayer Breakfast: “They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out. The ratings went down the tubes,” Trump said. “I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings.”
The Feb. 13 season finale of “Celebrity Apprentice” attracted 3.45 million live viewers, a steep drop from the 6.1 million who tuned in for Trump’s last season finale on the show in 2015 — but the ratings under Trump were already in a steady decline, down from a peak of about 21 million viewers during the show’s first season in 2004.
NBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.