Martha Stewart fires back at Donald Trump, says her 'Apprentice' ratings are "damn good," blames overexposure
By Reality TV World staff, 11/01/2005
Martha Stewart has taken off her white gloves and fired back at Donald Trump's public badmouthing the domestic diva's The Apprentice spin-off series (perhaps Apprentice producer Mark Burnett should schedule the pair for an appearance on his The Contender reality boxing series.)
Taking a page from The Donald's own bravado-filled PR playbook, Stewart says she disagrees with Trump's claims that her Apprentice series "has struggled severely." "We're getting six to seven million viewers a night," Stewart gushes in a Fortune magazine feature. "Guess what? That's damn good."
Although the comments represent the first time that Stewart has personally addressed the show's poor ratings, Stewart's Fortune comments are consistent with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's initial response to Trump's attack of the show -- a tersely worded "We're thrilled with the continued ratings growth of the show" statement.
While Stewart admits that the show's ratings could be better, she also unabashedly acknowledges that she's still getting what she wanted out of the television program: primetime exposure. "People walk away from the show thinking, 'What a nice company that is,' and 'Boy, do they do good things,'" Stewart explained.
As far as Stewart is concerned, her show's ratings struggles and the ongoing ratings decline of Trump's Apprentice editions have nothing to do with her or her brands but can instead be traced back to one thing: the overexposure of The Apprentice show itself.
According to Stewart, she never expected NBC to air her Apprentice series alongside another Trump edition (a claim that is supported by NBC's initial comments about the series.) Stewart told Fortune that she didn't learn about NBC's plans to air both editions at the same time "until shortly before she 'got home'" from her five month prison stay at Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia.
"I thought I was [going to be] replacing The Donald," Stewart told Fortune. "It was even discussed that I would be firing The Donald on the first show." Trump's "firing" was dropped once NBC decided to air both series at the same time, and Trump was apparently never informed of the plan. "I don't think he ever knew," said Stewart.
Stewart's comments follow a recent Don Imus radio interview in which Trump reportedly told the syndicated radio show host that "I never thought [giving Martha her own show] was a good idea" and repeatedly stated that "I was never in favor of it."
In addition to her Fortune comments, Stewart is also disputing Trump's radio interview claim that The Apprentice: Martha Stewart's future is "really up to Mark Burnett and myself and NBC."
"I accepted Mark Burnett's offer because I thought it would be a wonderful vehicle to expose the beautiful nature of our company to the public. It was a fun thing to do coming out of Alderson and a wonderful advertisement for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia," Martha Stewart recently told attendees of the American Magazine Conference. "But it was always perceived to be for one season only and we have no plans for renewal."
"It was a one shot promotional concept and we are not getting into the primetime television business," Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia CEO Susan Lyne also insisted to reporters. "We wanted to expose Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to an audience that otherwise might not think of us." While Lyne acknowledged to Mediapost that "it's clear the show launched to lower numbers than NBC expected," the former ABC executive also made it clear that she felt the industry's expectations of the show were too high.
"NBC, critics and advertisers had built expectations to the point where the show was being perceived as a failure," she groused to Media Village. "There was a moment this summer when every media buyer said 'This will be THE hot show of the fall,'" Lyne lamented.