Donald Trump tweeted this morning in defense of last night’s Celebrity Apprentice season debut, in which he fired Keshia Knight Pulliam (aka The Cosby Show‘s Rudy Huxtable) for having failed to hit up Bill Cosby for her charity bake sale assignment.
Media naively called it “worst timing possible,” “baffling,” etc., wondering why NBC had not edited the episode, shot more than a year ago, in order to remove references to Cosby, who has been under fire since comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a “rapist” in an October gig, prompting women who’d previously claimed to be among his alleged victims to come forward again, along with a growing list of new accusers.
NBC answered media’s question this morning, when it got to dive into the ratings-grabbing Cosby story again because booted Celebrity Apprentice competitor Pulliam stopped by the network’s beleaguered Today show, and called the allegations against Cosby, “just that – allegations. We live in America, where you’re innocent until proven guilty,” she said. “All I can speak to is the man that I know and I love.”
The episode tasked its “celebs” with hosting a bake sale and to call celeb pals to pitch them on the baked goods. Project manager Pulliam declined to call Cosby, explaining she had not spoken to him in years and, when her team did not raise as much money as had, say, Geraldo Rivera’s, Trump sacked Pulliam for failure to contact Cosby.
“I really believe, if you’d called that gentleman, he would’ve helped you, even if you hadn’t spoken to him in years, because you were an amazing team with one of the most successful shows ever,” Trump said in the episode.
The episode was shot right around the time NBC was looking to bring back some The Cosby Show comedy-genre-resuscitating magic, making a deal for a new half-hour family comedy to star Cosby, playing a family patriarch.
Sunday’s episode of The Celebrity Apprentice opened with a 2.3 in 18-49 — up +35% from its Season 13 opener on March 3, 2013 and NBC’s highest demo rating in the 9-11 PM time period with regular entertainment programming in two years. In addition to the awkward-making headline- grabbing praise for Cosby, the episode featured appearances by the show’s former winner, the late Joan Rivers.