Trump Puts 'Apprentice' Flap to Bed

And now, what we hope is the last word on the Donald Trump-Martha Stewart slapfight over whose fault it is that ratings for "The Apprentice" are down.

Speaking to reporters Friday (March 3), Trump said he was surprised at how much play the war of words got.

"I think it was really very much overblown, yes," he says.

The real-estate mogul also denied that the kerfuffle -- touched off when Stewart told Newsweek that she thought hers would be the only "Apprentice" on NBC last fall -- was manufactured to generate interest in the fifth cycle of Trump's show, which debuted Monday to uninspired ratings. It finished fourth in its time period in both viewers and adults 18-49.

"It's really not true. I was disappointed that Martha would blame me for her problems with the show, blame me and [fellow executive producer] Mark Burnett," Trump says. "But that has nothing to do with it. I don't even know if it's necessarily good. I'm not looking to be on the attack."

Give the man points for candor, though. Asked if he'd ever do something similar to drum up publicity for the show, Trump delivers a quick "Yes."

"But I didn't in this case," he adds.

Trump's daughter Ivanka, who was also on the call -- she's filling in for Carolyn Kepcher a few times this season, including Monday's episode -- declined to join the fray. She opted not to compare her style on the show to that of Alexis Stewart, who advised her mom on "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart."

"I don't want to compare myself against someone I don't know personally," she says.

Trump admits to disappointment over the show's lackluster opening this week -- it averaged about 9.7 million viewers and a 4.0 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic that sets advertisers' hearts aflutter. He's hopeful, though, that this "Apprentice" will follow its predecessors in building audience as the season wears on.

"I think the fifth version -- it's hard to believe we're up to five already -- but I think the fifth is as good as we've done or maybe better than we've ever done," he says. "I thought 4 was really good, and 1 was really good. I think 5 may be the equivalent of 4, or maybe better."

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