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Donald Trump's attacks on President Barack Obama aren't helping 'Apprentice' ratings

Donald Trump, center, shown with Celebrity Apprentice contestants in 2010, is flirting with the idea of running for president. 

Mitchell Haaseth | NBC

Donald Trump, center, shown with Celebrity Apprentice contestants in 2010, is flirting with the idea of running for president. 

Even the cynical among us assume that a guy who bankrupted his businesses and cheated on his first wife wouldn't have much of a shot at the Republican presidential nomination.

But even though Donald Trump has turned press fascination with him into leading poll results among contenders for the GOP nod, his repeated attacks on President Barack Obama during interviews haven't helped him in the one place TV critics had expected:

The ratings for his NBC show, Celebrity Apprentice.

Viewership for Sunday's edition of the show was down 17 percent from the week before to a series low, according to Deadline Hollywood Daily. Figures from the Nielsen Co. show that ratings for The Apprentice have steadily declined in recent weeks.

Starting at a high of 9.5 million viewers March 27, viewership dropped to 8.2 million people April 10.

And though some have blamed Apprentice network NBC for enabling Trump's political flirtations with coverage on the Today show, on Tuesday the network took the gloves off — sending White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie and investigative reporter Michael Isikoff to give him presidential-level scrutiny.

Guthrie showed interview footage on Today in which Trump insisted he could make China stop manipulating its currency and didn't seem to understand the connection between a constitutional right to privacy (which he says he supports) and the way it has legally enabled abortion rights (which he does not).

Isikoff presented a tough story on NBC Nightly News looking at Trump's business problems, including the 52-story Trump Tower Tampa, which never got built and sparked lawsuits from condo owners.

"Donald Trump left us high and dry," Elaine Lucadano, a former reporter at St. Petersburg CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10, told Isikoff about Trump's Tampa project, which she said cost her $45,000. "He misled us."

Such coverage seems a long way from late March, when Trump saw a ratings spike for Celebrity Apprentice after tangling with The View's Whoopi Goldberg over his insistence that Obama has not proven he was born in America.

The persistence of that claim, which has been officially debunked for quite some time, has led some to accuse birther-believing conservatives of raising outlandish conspiracies to justify fear of a black president.

Small wonder that several black celebrities have spoken out against Trump's tactics, including comics Bill Cosby and Tracy Morgan, unmoved by the mogul's claim in a radio interview that he has "always had a great relationship with the blacks."

Now ratings show he may have crossed a line with viewers, who are watching the show less despite the building drama that saw nutcase Gary Busey ejected Sunday.

Given these figures, NBC probably wishes Trump would go back to overseeing bad beauty pageants and needling Rosie O'Donnell. Because, even if his latest campaign wins him cachet with conservatives, it's not winning over the TV audience.

And for a network TV star, that may be the most important constituency of all.

Donald Trump's attacks on President Barack Obama aren't helping 'Apprentice' ratings 04/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 12:14am]
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