By now you’ve likely heard that President Donald Trump took some jabs at “Apprentice” host Arnold Schwarzenegger during the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning, but what you might have missed is the fascinating speech that preceded Trump’s now-viral comments.
As it turns out, famed TV producer Mark Burnett — who created “The Apprentice” franchise and cast Trump to star in the popular series — appeared at the prayer breakfast to introduce Trump, proclaiming that his friendship with the businessman-turned-president has been “one of the greatest relationships” he’s experienced in his life.
Burnett started his speech by recounting how he first became aware of Trump in the late 1980s while selling T-shirts on Venice Beach. At the time, Burnett, an immigrant from the U.K., was contemplating how he could start a business and really “get going in America” (read more about Burnett’s fascinating immigration story here).
Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger did a really bad job as Governor of California and even worse on the Apprentice…but at least he tried hard!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
“I came across a book, ‘The Art of the Deal.’ That book really, really inspired me,” Burnett recalled, speaking of Trump’s popular book. “(And I thought), ‘You know what, America is the kind of place you can get a start and start a business.'”
After that realization, Burnett pursued his career in Hollywood and launched “Survivor,” a show that he said “took the country by storm.” And when it came time to film the program’s live finale, he decided to do something at a New York City venue that is operated by the Trump Organization; his team made a deal with Trump to make that finale happen, but the two still hadn’t met in person at that point — that is, until the day of the live filming.
“I had got on stage that day with five minutes to go live on CBS … I spied sitting right in the front row Mr. Donald Trump,” Burnett recalled. “My dream had come true. That book, ‘The Art of the Deal,’ had got me going and now I’m in the presence of the man himself, Donald Trump.”
After the show, Trump went backstage and finally met Burnett, giving the young producer his private office number and imploring Burnett to call him one day to “do something” together. Little did Burnett know at the time, but that offer would end up yielding yet another wildly popular TV show.
Watch Burnett discuss his relationship with Trump below:
It was six months after Burnett’s encounter with Trump that he realized he needed to stop filming abroad and get back to his family in the U.S., so he started crafting plans for what would become “The Apprentice.” After thinking up an inspirational, business-themed show, Burnett said that Trump’s name popped into his head. So, one day, after Burnett arrived in New York for a trip he decided to call Trump’s office to set a meeting and discuss the concept.
“I called that number expecting to set an appointment,” he said. “I got through (to Trump’s assistant) and she put me straight through, and all I wanted was an appointment — and now I’m speaking to Donald Trump.”
Burnett said he hadn’t had a chance to nail down all the ideas for the show yet, but when Trump learned that Burnett was in town, the businessman told him to immediately head to Trump Tower.
“You’ll be here in half hour. You know where Trump tower is,” Trump said. “I’ll be waiting. I’ll see you there.”
So, the pressure was on. Burnett went straight to meet Trump and pitch the idea — and Trump instantly loved it. He told Burnett to phone his agent that second and tell him about the concept. But, to Burnett’s shock, that agent said he “hated” it, that it wouldn’t work and that Trump wouldn’t be participating. That’s when the producer went back to Trump’s office to deliver the news, and received a stunning reaction.
“Mr. Trump stood up from behind his desk, he walked around and said, ‘Correct me if I’m wrong. Didn’t I just give you my word?” Trump said. “(He continued), ‘We’re going to make a deal right now, just you and me.'”
And that’s exactly what they did, and more than a decade later, Burnett stood on the National Prayer Breakfast stage at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., this week and introduced Trump before the nation’s newfound president addressed the audience.
“That began 14 years of a relationship, building a highly successful global television franchise, a relationship where we have never had a single bad word between us,” Burnett said. “Everything that comes up in business we just deal face to face, no lawyers, no accountants — deal with it straight forwardly. It’s been one of the greatest relationships of my life.”
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