'You Were Terrible'

Look out Martha, the Donald is gunning for you. "I'm tired of Martha blaming me for her failure," Donald Trump roared over the phone to NEWSWEEK on Tuesday.

Trump was referring to comments Martha Stewart made in the current edition of NEWSWEEK about why her version of "The Apprentice" failed. (NBC declined to renew Stewart's version of the program after its initial season). And he fired off a letter to the domestic diva assailing her for suggesting that her show suffered from "Apprentice" overload because it was on the air at the same time as his.

In the NEWSWEEK story, Stewart contends she was supposed to have fired Trump on the air, leaving her show as the sole "Apprentice" on NBC. "Having two "Apprentices" was as unfair to him as it was unfair to me," Stewart said. "But Donald really wanted to stay on."

Trump's response: "It's about time you started taking responsibility for your failed version of "The Apprentice"," he wrote in a Feb. 21 missive to Stewart that he shared with NEWSWEEK. "Your performance was terrible in that the show lacked mood, temperament and just about everything else a show needs for success. I knew it would fail as soon as I first saw it -- and your low ratings bore me out."

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Trump went on to attack Stewart's sidekick on the show, her daughter Alexis, as well as Stewart's practice of writing thank-you notes to contestants she'd just fired. "Between your daughter, with her-one word statements, your letter writing and, most importantly, your totally unconvincing demeanor, it never had a chance -- much as your daytime show is not exactly setting records."

Trump's primary complaint was Stewart's contention that she was to have fired Trump on the air. She says that was proposed. "The franchise," she told NEWSWEEK, "should only be one show. It shouldn't be two shows." "Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett confirmed that firing Trump was suggested. But Burnett, who co-owns "The Apprentice" with Trump, quickly added: "Thank God that didn't happen."

Trump, though, is adamant that no one wanted to turn the boardroom tables on him. "What moron would think you'd fire a guy with the No. 1 show on TV," he told NEWSWEEK. (In season four, "The Apprentice" averaged about 10.7 million viewers a week, down several million from its previous season. Stewart's show averaged 6.6 million viewers through its first four weeks.)

In his letter, Trump even addresses Stewart's high-profile 2004 conviction and imprisonment for perjury and obstruction of justice in the ImClone stock trading scandal. "You made this firing up just as you made up your sell order of ImClone," he wrote. "The only difference is -- that was more obvious."

To Trump, the cruelest cut is that Stewart, in his view, has turned on him. "I did nothing but positively promote you," he wrote. "My great loyalty to you has gone totally unappreciated."

At the end of his letter, Trump takes one more shot. "P.S.," he wrote. "Be careful or I will do a syndicated daytime show, perhaps called The Boardroom, and further destroy the meager ratings you already have."

Stewart, who last week told NEWSWEEK she had an "excellent" relationship with Trump, might be reassessing that now. After reading the letter late Tuesday, she issued this statement to Newsweek: "The letter is so mean-spirited and reckless that I almost can't believe my long-time friend Donald Trump wrote it. I am very proud of the work we did with Mark Burnett Productions and Mr. Trump, who was an executive producer, on 'The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.' Many young entrepreneurs learned so much from the show and enjoyed it. Many families sat their children down weekly to watch it. We are even more pleased with our excellent daytime show Martha -- syndicated by NBC Universal -- which has just been nominated for six daytime Emmys (including best show and best host), was touted by The New York Times as one of the best shows on television, and has been embraced by our wonderful audience throughout the country."