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Schwarzenegger quits 'Celebrity Apprentice' over show's Trump ties

(Adds background on Trump's role in the show)

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES, March 3 (Reuters) - Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Friday he will not be back for another season of NBC's reality show "The Celebrity Apprentice," blaming U.S. President Donald Trump's ongoing role as executive producer for low ratings.

Action movie star Schwarzenegger took over as host of "Celebrity Apprentice" last year. His first season, which premiered in January, has been watched by around 4 million to 5 million viewers.

"Everyone - from the celebrities to the crew to the marketing department - was a straight 10, and I would absolutely work with all of them again on a show that doesn't have this baggage," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

The actor's representative said Schwarzenegger would not be returning for a second season.

NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp, did not comment on Schwarzenegger's decision not to return for another season, or the show's future. There was no immediate comment from Trump or the White House on Friday.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican who served two terms as California governor but said he did not vote for Trump as president, told British film magazine Empire in an interview published on Friday that he was leaving the show due to Trump's involvement.

News that Trump will retain an executive producer credit on the show, which usually involves a payment, caused a media furor in December about potential conflicts of interest.

Schwarzenegger told Empire that the show was "a really great opportunity, but "under the circumstances I don't want to do it again."

"When people found out that Trump was still involved as executive producer and was still receiving money from the show, then half the people (started) boycotting it," Schwarzenegger said.

New York businessman Trump, who took office in January after winning November's presidential election, became a household name as the host of "The Apprentice" and "The Celebrity Apprentice" for 14 seasons, where contestants would compete in business challenges.

Trump mocked Schwarzenegger and the 43 percent fall in the coveted 18-to-49-year-old audience for the show's January premiere, sparking a Twitter fight between America's two biggest celebrities-turned-politicians.

"Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got 'swamped' (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT," tweeted Trump.

"I wish you the best of luck and I hope you'll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings," Schwarzenegger tweeted back.

Some 20 million Americans watched the first year of "The Apprentice" but viewership dropped to around 6 million in 2015 for Trump's final episode of "The Celebrity Apprentice." (Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; editing by Jill Serjeant and Marguerita Choy)