*When the new season premiere of “Celebrity Apprentice” was filmed, Bill Cosby was still more or less America’s favorite dad, and a believable money option for contestant and former Cosby Kid Keshia Knight Pulliam to tap for her fundraising challenge.
But by the time the episode finally aired Sunday night, in light of Cosby’s sexual abuse allegations, the mention of the actor’s name was a bit awkward.
Pulliam, who played Rudy Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” was the first to get fired from Donald Trump’s newest team of Celebrity Apprentice hopefuls.
As project manager, it was Pulliam’s responsibility to ensure that her female-driven team – which included Housewives Brandi Glanville and Kenya Moore – raised more money for charity than their male opponents, led by Geraldo Rivera.
After that, it became a game of influence as each celebrity sought to call upon his or her rich and famous friends to make donations to charity in their name.
Throughout the episode, Cosby was name-dropped several times – mostly by Kenya – as Pulliam’s teammates pressured her to ring up her former TV dad.
Pulliam, 35, would hedge, often and uncomfortably, telling her teammates that she wanted to reach out to people in the immediate New York City area who would be more ready and available to drop by with a donation.
No match for Rivera’s friends at Fox News and for Kevin Jonas’s legion of female fans, Pulliam’s team eventually lost.
In the boardroom, Trump, 68, took her to task for not calling Cosby, to which Pulliam copped, in 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.”
Despite the fact that Kate Gosselin earned exactly zero dollars for charity, however, Trump chose to fire Pulliam – specifically for not calling Cosby.
“I really believe, if you’d called that gentleman, he would’ve helped you, even if you hadn’t spoken to him in years, because you were an amazing team with one of the most successful shows ever,” he said.
“So, I think it would’ve been a very good call to make for charity. But you have to take responsibility. I think you agree with that,” he finished, before sending Pulliam out the door.
The show was filmed in March 2014, well before comedian Hannibal Buress’ stand-up set, in which he called Cosby a “rapist,” went viral back in October, inspiring a number of women to come forward with allegations that Cosby had sexual abused them.
The Cosby-heavy edit of the episode felt so awkward that Trump, who was live-Tweeting the episode, responded to his critics by clarifying: “This show was taped just before the terrible Bill Cosby revelations came to light. She still should have asked him for money – goes to charity.”
Pulliam defended her former TV dad on the Today show on Monday, calling the allegations “just that – allegations. We live in America, where you’re innocent until proven guilty,” she said. “All I can speak to is the man that I know and I love.”