What Price Donald Trump?

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Donald Trump is a hypocrite, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. But his “hiring” of stricken rock star Bret Michaels as the 2010 winner of Celebrity Apprentice in the show’s two-hour NBC season finale Sunday (9 p.m. May 23, Channel 4 in Detroit) – as genuine a feel-good moment as TV has produced in many a moon – was surprising. And flat wrong.

Michaels, 45, certainly could lay claim to the sympathy vote, literally coming back from the dead to appear live on the final episode, which included taped segments. After recovering from a severe brain hemorrhage in April, he was hospitalized again recently upon suffering what doctors termed a “warning stroke,” and faces additional surgery to correct a hole in his heart.

Michaels acknowledged that his doctors cautioned him not to appear on the Celebrity finale, but he was determined to attend. “Lately it seems like me just standing up is risking my life,” half-joked Michaels, who walked stiff-legged and with a slight limp, but added that he felt it was worth the risk and that he “came to win.” In accomplishing his mission, he took away $250,000 for his charity, the American Diabetes Association. Michaels has suffered from Type 1 diabetes since childhood; during the Apprentice taping he learned his 10-year-old daughter, Raine, was diagnosed as borderline for the condition.

His co-finalist, the actress and activist Holly Robinson Peete, arrived in a stunning, form-fitting silver cocktail dress – “a baby-making dress,” Michaels declared it, accusing her of playing the sexy card to achieve victory from Trump. Robinson Peete, 45, was praised by both Trump and Michaels for her skillful gamesmanship on behalf of the HollyRod Foundation, a nonprofit she founded with her husband, former Lions quarterback Rodney Peete, to assist in providing quality of life to families touched by disease or disorders. (Her father, the late Matthew T. Robinson, had Parkinson’s disease; the couple’s son, RJ, is autistic.)

Both Michaels and Robinson Peete were worthy of the win, so much so that Trump announced the night’s primary sponsor, Snapple, had agreed to match the quarter-million-dollar grand prize so neither finalist went away empty-handed.

But here’s the thing: During the competition, Robinson Peete raised more than $370,000 for her charity, the highest total in the history of the series. Not the biggest amount of the season; the most money accumulated by any single player since The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice have been on the air.

Now, if Donald Trump is about anything, it’s money. Week after week, season after season, Trump has “fired” contestants and sent them packing on the reality show because their fundraising methods didn’t generate enough cash to keep them in the game. To now discredit Robinson Peete’s moneymaking magic, even opposite a miracle like Michaels’s recovery, is to undermine the essence of the program itself. If money talks, Michaels should have walked.

Bret, we’re glad you’re better, but Holly, you got robbed.


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