The 14th season of “Celebrity Apprentice” began with a bit of controversy Sunday night when the first person fired, former “Cosby Show” star Keshia Knight Pulliam, was canned because of her refusal to contact her former co-star, Bill Cosby, for money.
Pulliam was her team’s project manager for the first task of the season, which involved attempting to raise money for each celebrity’s favorite charity. But Pulliam resisted pressure from her teammates to contact Cosby. When the female celebrity team, including Brandi Glanville and Kate Gosselin, wound up raising less money than the male celebrity team, Pulliam took the fall in the boardroom.
Though the episode was taped in March 2014, months before Cosby’s most recent round of controversy, in which he has been accused of sexual abuse by more than two dozen women, the specter of those allegations hung over every awkward interaction involving Pulliam declining to contact her co-star.
“I have not talked to Bill Cosby on the phone in I don’t know how long,” Pulliam told Donald Trump in the boardroom segment. “So, for me to pick up the phone, having not talked to you for five years, except for when we run into each other for a ‘Cosby' event, I feel that’s not my place to do.”
That argument didn’t sway Trump who told her, “I really believe, if you’d called that gentleman, he would’ve helped you, even if you hadn’t spoken to him in years, because you were an amazing team with one of the most successful shows ever.”
Though the conversation takes on a different light with the recent accusations leveled against Cosby, Trump has not swayed from his position. During Sunday’s broadcast, he tweeted, “This show was taped just before the terrible Bill Cosby revelations came to light. She still should have asked him for money-goes to charity.”
The cast of “The Cosby Show” has remained mostly silent in the face of the allegations against Cosby. When asked about them by Savannah Guthrie on the “Today” show, Pulliam chose not to attack Cosby.
“What I can say is this: I wasn’t there,” she told Guthrie. “No one was there except for the two people who know exactly what happened. All I can speak to is the man that I know and I love.”
When pressed about her reaction to the allegations, Pulliam responded, “Ultimately, they’re just that, allegations. You know, it’s very much been played out in the court of public opinion. But we’re still in America, where ultimately you’re innocent until proven guilty. I wasn’t there. That’s just not the man I know. So I can’t speak to it.”
The episode grabbed 6.7 million viewers Sunday night, putting it in second place, after CBS’ “The Good Wife.” The second episode airs Monday night.
This season of “Celebrity Apprentice” will also be notable for featuring one of the final appearances of Joan Rivers as a consultant. Rivers taped her appearance before her death in September.
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