Trump Digs at Schwarzenegger Ratings at Prayer Breakfast; Schwarzenegger Offers to Switch Jobs

"I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings," Trump said

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President Donald Trump slammed former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington Thursday morning, saying he wants to pray for Schwarzenegger because of his ratings on the show "The Apprentice." 

Trump was introduced at the breakfast by television producer Mark Burnett, who helped make Trump the reality show's host in 2004. Trump remains a producer on the reboot of the show. 

The breakfast is a high-profile event bringing together faith leaders, politicians and dignitaries. Trump also warned the audience there that religious freedom is "under threat" and vowed to repeal the Johnson Amendment, an IRS rule barring pastors from endorsing candidates from the pulpit.

But when he took the podium, Trump immediately criticized Schwarzenegger, the current host of "The Apprentice."

"The ratings went right down the tubes," Trump said of the show. "It’s been a total disaster." 

He added, "I want to just pray for Arnold if we can, for those ratings." 

Schwarzenegger responded on Twitter soon after the remarks, offering to switch jobs with Trump, since he clearly cares about TV a lot.

With Schwarzenegger in the White House, he said, "people can finally sleep comfortably again." 

Later on, Rex Tillerson apologized for being late to introducing himself at the State Department, which he now leads, citing the breakfast.

"It seemed at this year's prayer breakfast people felt the need to pray a little longer," he joked.

The president made no mention at the prayer breakfast of other steps he may take on promised protections for religious objectors to gay marriage and abortion, saying only that religious freedom is a "sacred right." He used his remarks to thank the American people for their prayers in his opening days in office.

Religious conservatives whose overwhelming support propelled Trump to the White House have been watching closely for him to deliver on those issues. Kelly Shackelford, head of First Liberty Institute, a non-profit legal group that specializes in religious freedom cases, said no other presidential candidate was "more outspoken on their commitment to religious freedom" than Trump.

While the president's comments were likely to be warmly received by religious groups, LGBTQ groups are anxious that the president could use his executive powers to curb rights.

"We think it is entirely possible there could be an executive order that creates religious exemptions," said James Esseks, LGBT project director for the American Civil Liberties Union. He added that the "narrative" that Trump won't harm the LGBTQ community was "not correct."

Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced that the president would leave intact a 2014 executive order that protects workers for federal contractors from anti-LGBTQ discrimination, saying in a statement that Trump "continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election."

During a Monday news briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer offered no details on whether Trump could still issue an executive order affecting the LGBTQ community.

"There is a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now," Spicer said.

For now, both sides are speculating on Trump's plans.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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