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President Trump took advantage of his appearance at the annual National Prayer Breakfast Thursday to get in a dig at his rival Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie star and former California governor who took over for Trump as host of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Speaking at what is typically a pious and reflective event, Trump suggested praying for Schwarzenegger, whose ratings have suffered in comparison to Trump’s during his years as host.
“We had tremendous success on the ‘Apprentice,’ and when I ran for president I had to leave the show. That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it, and they hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place,” Trump said. “And we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster. And Mark [Burnett] will never, ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold if we can for those ratings.”
Trump retains an executive producer credit on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and — apart from his ego investment in having the highest television ratings — stands to profit from any publicity he can generate for the show.
Schwarzenegger responded swiftly with a video posted on Twitter.
“Hey, Donald. I have a great idea. Why don’t we switch jobs? You take over TV because you’re such an expert in ratings, and I take over your job so people can finally sleep comfortably again,” he said.
The National Prayer Breakfast? pic.twitter.com/KYUqEZbJIE
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) February 2, 2017
Schwarzenegger has said that he became “a proud Republican” in 1968, before he was even a citizen, after hearing former President Richard Nixon speak about small government, free trade and defending liberty with a strong military. Leading up to the 2016 general election, Schwarzenegger announced that for the first time since becoming eligible to vote in 1983, he would not support the Republican presidential candidate.
“But as proud as I am to label myself a Republican, there is one label that I hold above all else — American,” Schwarzenegger wrote in October. “So I want to take a moment today to remind my fellow Republicans that it is not only acceptable to choose your country over your party — it is your duty.”
After Schwarzenegger’s version of “The Celebrity Apprentice” debuted with a 44 percent drop in ratings, Trump mocked the “Terminator” actor on social media.
“Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got ‘swamped’ (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT,” Trump wrote, “So much for being a movie star-and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.”
Schwarzenegger responded by wishing Trump well as president and encouraging him to work for all Americans: “I wish you the best of luck and I hope you’ll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings.”
The National Prayer Breakfast, which started in the Eisenhower era, is an annual gathering hosted by members of Congress and organized by The Fellowship, a Christian foundation.
In his speech, Trump also praised the U.S. military, vowed to take care of the country’s veterans and promised to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a rule that strips tax-exempt status from churches that support or oppose political candidates. He also, for what may be the first time in his public career, expressed doubts about the importance of being rich:
“So easily we forget this, that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success. I will tell you that. And I tell you that from somebody who has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success — the most material success — many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people.”
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