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NBC chief on network's relationship with Donald Trump: 'We're sort of separated'

NBC chief on network's relationship with Donald Trump: 'We're sort of separated'
Donald Trump attends a "Celebrity Apprentice" red carpet event at Trump Tower on February 3, 2015 in New York City. (Andrew H. Walker / AFP/Getty)

NBC won't be saying "You're rehired!" to Donald Trump anytime soon.

NBC Chairman of Entertainment Robert Greenblatt took the stage Thursday for the final round of the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills. And, as expected, the network's relationship with the real estate mogul-turned-presidential-hopeful -- more so than NBC's upcoming slate of shows -- took the spotlight.

The network announced that "Celebrity Apprentice," the star-studded offshoot of the long-running competition franchise, was being put on hiatus this season as the network searches for a new host.

NBC cut business ties with Trump, who served as brusque host and an executive producer of the reality series, back in June after his controversial comments about Mexican immigrants during a speech announcing his presidential candidacy.

"Due to circumstances that everyone here is aware of regarding our host — I should say former host," Greenblatt told reporters, "we will not be producing a new edition of the show this season, but it will be back for the 2016-17 season with a new host."

Greenblatt said the network has been "overwhelmed" by a number of candidates who have come forward and put their name in the running.

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"You've heard some names bandied about," Greenblatt said. "Some of them are simply not true, but I also don't want to speculate on any specifics today because we haven't gotten that far into the process. As soon as we settle on someone, we'll get the word out, and something tells me that will be big news."

As for as its future dealings with the polarizing figure, Greenblatt chose his words carefully:

"I don't think somebody who is running for president and might possibly be the next leader of the free world could be banned from any activities at NBC, but we'll have to see how this plays out. For now, we're sort of separated."

But pressed whether Trump could ever return to "The Apprentice" franchise, which undoubtedly rose to popular heights largely because of Trump's surly persona, Greenblatt was definitive: "Absolutely not."

That's not to say NBC brass didn't have nice things to say about Trump. Greenblatt described the network's working relationship with Trump before his election ramp up as "congenial."

"He was very much a collaborator and worked closely with us," Greenblatt said of Trump's involvement with the Mark Burnett-produced reality series.

Commenting on what's fueling much of the attention surrounding Trump's approach to nabbing the Republican presidential nomination, Greenblatt offered:

"I guess people, in the political world, are looking for somebody who just speaks their mind regardless of anything else. He does that. Whether you agree with anything he says, he says it without any kind of filter.... I think there's something refreshing about that. But at a certain point you have to look at the message and make your own decisions.

"The world like's a star, he's a star."

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I tweet about TV (and other things) here: @villarrealy

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