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Donald Trump Mulls Martha Stewart Pardon, But In 2005, She Nearly Fired Him on ‘The Apprentice’

Martha Stewart and Donald Trump Tape NBC Promotions - August 8, 2005Martha Stewart and Donald Trump Tape NBC Promotions - August 8, 2005
Donald Trump and Martha Stewart in a 2005 promotional photo for NBC's "The Apprentice."NBCUniversal/WireImage

U.S. president Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that he was mulling pardons for Martha Stewart, the disgraced (and rehabilitated!) queen of lifestyle media, and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The news came as a mild shock in an otherwise shocking presidency. Most expressions of presidential clemency come and go with little attention from the general public, and the high-profile exceptions—from Gerald Ford’s 1974 pardon of Richard Nixon for obstructing justice during the Watergate scandal to Barack Obama’s commuting of Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence for leaking government information—carry risk of backlash for appearing politically motivated or otherwise self-interested. (Exhibit A: Trump’s pardon this week of conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted for campaign finance violations in 2014.)

On its merits, Martha Stewart is hardly a risky choice. Though she spent five months in prison for obstructing justice and similar charges during a 2004 insider trading investigation, Stewart quickly regained her popularity, and today enjoys a profile similar to the one she had at the beginning of the millennium. (Look no further than Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party on VH1.)

But Stewart has quite a personal history with Trump, including serving as host of a spinoff of The Apprentice, Trump’s long-running NBC television series, shortly after her conviction. At the time, the stars were initially supportive of each other’s successes, but in the wake of the spinoff series’ cancellation after just 13 episodes, Trump was highly critical of Stewart, writing: “Putting your show on the air was a mistake for everybody—especially NBC.” Fast forward to today and Trump, now the 45th President of the United States, enjoys the power of clemency and the upper hand.

Yet in an interview with Fortune’s Pattie Sellers in 2005, the power dynamic seemed to be flipped. When Stewart was offered a starring role in The Apprentice, she recalled from her office in Midtown Manhattan, “I thought I was replacing The Donald. It was even discussed that I would be firing The Donald on the first show.”

And what did Trump think about that? “I don’t think he ever knew,” she said at the time. Read the full story right here on