The National Prayer Breakfast, held annually in Washington, D.C., is typically a scandal-free part of the president’s schedule. Since 1953, every commander-in-chief, usually alongside members of Congress, Cabinet officials, and a wide variety of prominent guests, has taken one morning a year to address the gathering, which the Christian organization The Fellowship hosts as an annual acknowledgement of the role of faith in American public life. The most notable story to arise out of the event in recent years was when Ben Carson, in a speech at the 2013 event, railed against “moral decay and fiscal irresponsibility” under the Obama administration, a moment that many say jump-started his eventual run for president in 2016.
However, as has previously been the case over the past 18 months, President Donald Trump used a decades-old political tradition to pick a personal fight. In a speech emphasizing the importance of religious liberty, Trump also took time to discuss a personal favorite topic: The Apprentice. As he has noted before, the reality TV show, for which he still serves as an executive producer, has seen its ratings decline under its current host (and the former governor of California), Arnold Schwarzenegger, and new name, The New Celebrity Apprentice. Discussing his relationship with Mark Burnett, the creator of The Apprentice and a keynote speaker at the event, Trump emphasized his own success with the show, adding, “They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place, and we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster, and Mark [Burnett] will never bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings.”