Kawasaki disputes severing ‘Apprentice’ ties

Kawasaki disputes severing ‘Apprentice’ ties
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Kawasaki says reports that it cut ties with “The New Celebrity Apprentice” over its links to President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump on Kanye West's presidential run: 'He is always going to be for us' Marie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Trump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' MORE distort its stance.

“Throughout its 50-year history in the United States, Kawasaki Motor Corp., U.S.A., its subsidiaries and affiliates, have remained neutral in regards to American politics,” the Japanese company said in a statement Wednesday evening.

“Recently published comments relating to ‘The New Celebrity Apprentice’ and President-elect Donald Trump’s involvement in the show are a misrepresentation of the company’s position and the employee is no longer with the company.”

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Reports emerged earlier Wednesday that Kawasaki was distancing itself from “The New Celebrity Apprentice” over Trump’s ongoing role in the NBC series.

“Once we understood the concerns of American citizens, we have taken the approach of agreeing not to participate in the show in the future as long as Mr. Trump is involved as executive producer,” spokesman Kevin Allen told Reuters earlier in the day during a telephone interview.

“'How could we support a show that was essentially created by Mr. Trump and who was still involved?’” he added. "The concerns from our own customers, as well as the #grabyourwallet campaign, did seize the attention of our executives.”

Kawasaki’s decision, Reuters said earlier, follows an episode of the show last Sunday in which contestants were asked to design a marketing campaign for a new motorcycle from the company.

Allen admitted Wednesday that Kawasaki had faced pressure since the episode aired from the #grabyourwallet campaign, a social media initiative urging customers to stop shopping at about 70 companies that do business with Trump or his family.

It also targets businesses that advertise on “The New Celebrity Apprentice” or donated to Trump’s 2016 White House bid.

But Wednesday night's statement from the company muddies the water about how the company plans to interact with the Trump brand. 

Trump’s executive producer credit on the program first appeared during its season premiere earlier this month.

The Jan. 2 episode featured actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) making his debut as Trump’s replacement on the contest.

Trump’s continued involvement with the series, which launched in 2004, has not been without controversy.

Critics charge Trump’s active connection to the show is one example of conflicts of interest between the president-elect and his vast business empire.