Randal Pinkett, 'Apprentice' No More

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Ed Gordon talks with Randal Pinkett, who just became the first black contestant to win the final round on Donald Trump's hit show on NBC, The Apprentice.

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

And then there was one.

Mr. DONALD TRUMP ("The Apprentice"): Rebecca, you're outstanding. Randal, you're hired.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GORDON: Last week on NBC's "The Apprentice," real estate mogul Donald Trump chose Randal Pinkett as his organization's next apprentice. Pinkett, a 34-year-old CEO, is the first black American to win on the show. Pinkett is a well-qualified hire. The Rhodes scholar holds five academic degrees from top universities, including MIT and Rutgers. The former college track and field champion also runs his own multimillion-dollar management and consulting firm. His win has sparked some controversy, but also an outpouring of praise from black America.

Mr. RANDAL PINKETT (Winner, "The Apprentice"): I've been getting incredible e-mails of support from the African-American community, phone calls; I've gotten gifts sent to my home as of recently saying congratulations. So I definitely feel the groundswell of support, and it's been a community that I've been proud to represent, and we all kind of wear that responsibility, and I wore it with pride.

GORDON: When you look back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?

Mr. PINKETT: You know, I think the only area where I might have made adjustments was in that last boardroom. You know, I stand by the decision that I made when Mr. Trump asked me, do I think that he should also hire Rebecca? And, you know, my answer was: This is about hiring the apprentice.

(Soundbite of "The Apprentice")

Mr. TRUMP: I have to ask Randal's opinion. If you were me, would you hire Rebecca also?

Mr. PINKETT: Mr. Trump, I firmly believe that this is "The Apprentice," that there is one and only one apprentice, and if you're going to hire someone tonight, it should be one.

I might have added to that that I have no objections to her joining the Trump organization, but I felt like the competition and the spirit of the competition was about selecting an apprentice, and that's what my response reflected.

GORDON: It has to some degree dimmed the spotlight on your accomplishment. Is it bittersweet in that sense? And did you feel a little put off in the sense that you had to even answer that?

Mr. PINKETT: I did feel a little put off in having to answer it. You know, I went 13 weeks--or should I say 12 weeks, six days, 11 hours, 59 minutes and 30 seconds almost unscathed. And then the last 30 seconds really was the only blemish in terms of some people's perception of my participation on the show. And that is disappointing. It is very disappointing, and I honestly don't believe that I should have ever been put in that position, 'cause no previous winner--no previous winner has ever been asked, should their opponent be hired, much less for this competition, where I felt there was a clear-cut winner and a clear-cut loser--runner-up.

GORDON: Now I told you this, and I promise you this will, in fact, be the case. This will only last for about five minutes once you do the initial round of interviews, and then you can move on to the important business. How much do you take a look at business today and take a look at the doors that have opened for African-Americans? But today we are still shut out of many opportunities. How do you see that? What would you like to do in terms of having this soapbox to perhaps try to open some of those doors?

Mr. PINKETT: Well, you know, I've experienced firsthand the challenges as an African-American business owner. I mean, we're still a fraction of, you know, companies that might be listed on the Forbes or other lists. So we have a lot of room for progress, and I see this as an opportunity for me to take my positioning and take my company to another level and to then be part of the movement to open up doors for other African-American entrepreneurs.

GORDON: All right. So talk to us about the family. Obviously this changes your life for those who live and love you.

Mr. PINKETT: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. You know, my wife has been my greatest supporter throughout this process. It was her idea for me to apply for the show, in fact. She put the application on my desk and said, `Fill it out.' So she's as excited if not more excited than I am to see me win "The Apprentice," and she and I will, you know, move forward together as a team, take advantage of it.

GORDON: Well, you continue to make history, this history, the first black apprentice.

Mr. PINKETT: That's right.

GORDON: So we're very proud of you.

Mr. PINKETT: Thanks, Ed.

GORDON: Congratulations and best of luck in the next year.

Mr. PINKETT: Thanks, man. It's good to see you again. Thanks.

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