"Celebrity Apprentice" stars urged to denounce Trump
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - An African-American political advocacy group is targeting "Celebrity Apprentice" star Donald Trump in the aftermath of what many feel are racially tinged political comments made about President Obama.
On Thursday, the organization ColorOfChange launched a Twitter-based campaign to persuade black "Celebrity Apprentice" cast members Star Jones and Lil Jon to denounce Trump for what the group terms "race-baiting."
Trump has made headlines in recent weeks by repeatedly questioning whether Obama was born in the U.S. Obama released his longform birth certificate April 27 with the hope of settling the matter, but the issue has been kept alive by a segment of the "birther" movement.
"This is the first organized attempt to target these celebrities and demand that they, as prominent African-Americans, take a public stance against Donald Trump's ongoing attacks against President Obama," ColorOfChange said in a statement.
Publicists representing Jones and Lil Jon did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Groupon, the discount shopping website, pulled its online advertisements from the "Celebrity Apprentice" website last week after customers -- spurred on by progressive advocacy group ThinkProgress -- complained.
Earlier this week, The Hollywood Reporter contacted nearly all of the companies that have recently aired advertisements on the long-running reality competition series to ask whether they might follow in Groupon's footsteps.
"Apprentice" advertisers Kay Jewelers, Allstate, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble declined to comment on their advertising plans, and more than 30 others did not respond to phone calls and emails.
Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange, said the campaign has started strongly. "We've gotten a lot of people tweeting," said Robinson, adding that the goal is to send a message to Jones, Lil Jon and other "Celebrity Apprentice" cast members that "they can't have a relationship with the black community and have a relationship with Trump and not call him out for his actions."
Mainstream critics, including Bob Schieffer of CBS Evening News, have labeled Trump -- who says he is mulling a run for president -- a racist or expressed discomfort over his comments questioning Obama's citizenship. Trump, 64, has also questioned Obama's admission to Harvard Law School.
Robinson said his organization has yet to hear from Jones or Lil Jon.
"They've remained in silence and now it is time for them to speak up," he said.
"Celebrity Apprentice" has averaged nearly 9 million viewers this season, performing somewhat well on ratings-challenged NBC. The show's season finale airs May 22.
A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately return emails seeking comment.
(Editing by Zorianna Kit)