Donald Trump Defends Firing Actress Who Refused To Talk To Bill Cosby

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Real estate mogul Donald Trump came under fire Sunday night for giving the boot to a “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant who refused to hit up actor Bill Cosby for a charity donation.

Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Rudy Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” became the first contestant to be fired from the show after her team, which she was tapped to lead, lost a challenge to raise money for a charity bake sale.

The episode that aired Sunday was actually taped in March 2014, months before accusations of sexual assault against Cosby snowballed. But in the television boardroom, Pulliam’s teammates ganged up on her for failing to reach out to Cosby.

“Did you call Bill?” Trump asked.

“I did not,” Pulliam said as she wiped away tears. “I have not talked to Bill Cosby on the phone in — I don’t know how long. So for me to pick up the phone, having not talked to you for five years except for when we run into each other for a Cosby event — I feel that’s not my place to do.”

Former CNN host Piers Morgan, who served as one of the show’s judges, told Pulliam that a call for charity would have been harmless even if she’d had a “falling out” with Cosby. Trump agreed.

“I really believe if you’d called that gentleman he would’ve helped you, even if you hadn’t spoken to him in years,” he told Pulliam before firing her. “Because you were an amazing team with one of the most successful shows ever. So I think it would’ve been a very good call to make for charity.”

Trump addressed the dustup on Monday, arguing that Pulliam should’ve reached out to Cosby regardless of his alleged transgressions:

Director Judd Apatow, who’s been campaigning to get venues to drop Cosby’s scheduled shows, speculated that Pulliam refused to contact Cosby because of the sexual assault accusations against him. He also accused Trump and NBC of playing up the moment for ratings:

But Pulliam told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on Monday that she declined to reach out to Cosby because she thought it would be “tactless,” not because of the sexual assault accusations.

“Ultimately, they’re just that, allegations,” Pulliam said. “It’s very much been played out in the court of public opinion. But we’re still in America, where ultimately you’re innocent until proven guilty. I wasn’t there. That’s just not the man I know. So I can’t speak to it.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

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