Matt Lauer Downplays NBC's Massive Conflict Of Interest With Trump While Interviewing His Celebrity Apprentice Replacement

During an interview on the December 12 edition of NBC’s Today, NBC host Matt Lauer interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger, the new host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice. While Lauer and Schwarzenegger discussed president-elect Donald Trump’s role as executive producer of the progam and the potential conflict that might cause, the pair downplayed the conflict of interest between NBC and Trump posed by their continued financial relationship. Earlier this month, Trump announced he would maintain his title as executive producer for Celebrity Apprentice, introducing yet another conflict of interest as he ascends to the presidency. The continued fiduciary relationship between NBC and Trump makes NBC financially invested in Trump’s reputation which threatens to undermine the network’s political reporting. From the December 15 edition of NBC News’ Today:

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MATT LAUER (HOST): When the Celebrity Apprentice returns next month, you know what? There's going to be a new leader in the boardroom: former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking over for President-elect Donald Trump, who is an executive producer on the show. By the way, it's a program owned and produced by MGM that airs on NBC. Governor good to see you. Good morning. Could you have ever imagined that there would be so much attention around this show and so much extra drama? Could you have thought of this a year ago?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, a year ago, I didn't even think -- more than a year ago I didn't even think when I watched The Apprentice that Trump would ever leave that show because I always loved watching the show and I said to myself “darn it, why don't I have a show like that.” Because that's the kind of thing I would like to do, reality TV. I've never done it before. And then all of a sudden, bang, there he was announcing for presidency, off the show. I immediately called Mark Burnett and I said, “Hey, what about me? I would like to replace him.”

LAUER: You seem like a great pick. He has announced he's going to retain his executive producer credit. So after January 20 he's going to be president of the United States and executive producer of the Celebrity Apprentice. Does that sound right to you?

SCHWARZENEGGER: What was great about it was that he was part of the negotiation. So I mean I get millions of dollars for hosting the show but NBC doesn't have to pay for it. Trump makes Mexico pay for it. Isn't that great? That was the best deal that he's done. That's true.

LAUER: I set you up for that. That was my fault. He says he’s going to spend zero time on the show, he’s going to focus obviously on the presidency. But would you be surprised if you got a call mid-season and it said, look, Arnold, I have a couple of tips for you?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I always like to get advice but I don't think that he will have time. I think it is perfectly fine that he has the executive producer credit because he created the show with Mark Burnett together, so why should his credit go. I totally see it. But he made it very clear that he has no interest in being involved. It is now my show. I am the host. I am the new boss, and I am going to run this show. But any time he has advice -- or anyone has advice, if you call me one day and say, “Look I saw the show. If you would add so and so as a celebrity,” I would take your advice.