The original version of Donald Trump’s self-promoting reality show competition “The Apprentice” occasionally created a useful business ethics scenario. Once The Donald started using B-list celebrities instead of real aspiring executives, however, the show deteriorated into ego insanity and the kind of freak show conflicts one would expect with participants like Jose Canseco, Joan Rivers and Dennis Rodman.
Surprisingly, last week’s episode blundered into a substantive, if confusing, ethics lesson. It was Donald Trump’s ethical priorities that were exposed, and as should surprise no one, they are as warped as Trump himself.
I can spare you all the details of the episode, which involved the weird assortment of celebs breaking into two teams to see who could devise the better commercial for Entertainment.com, as judged by the website’s execs. As usual, the losing team’s leader and the two team members fingered by her (in this case) had to have a show-down with Trump in “the Board Room” to determine who would be on the receiving end of Trump’s trademark line, “You’re fired!” This time one of the three potential firees was none other that old Incredible Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno, who has distinguished himself this season as a perpetual whiner, especially adept at blaming the members of his teams rather than accepting responsibility himself. He was richly deserving of the Trump pink slip in this episode, especially for the over-the-top violent and disparaging language he leveled at a female team mate, comedian Lisa Lampanelli. In the eyes of Trump, however, Lou clinched his demise not by being an unprofessional boor, but by being…honest.
“Who do you think had the better commercial?” Trump asked the former green alter-ego of the late Bill Bixby. It sure didn’t sound like a trick question. Ferrigno responded that the winning team’s commercial was better, an eminently reasonable response given that he and the other two celebrities on the hot seat were there because the commercial they had crafted had been judged as inferior. This, however, was seen by The Donald as a rank betrayal. He fired Lou, in part for his slug-like performance on the assigned task, but mostly, he said, for Ferrigno’s “great disloyalty” to his team.
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