This week on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, comedian Joan Rivers compared World Series of Poker bracelet winner Annie Duke to Hitler. It’s a comment that has not sat well with one of the top female players in the game. Duke sat down with Poker News Daily to discuss her reaction.
Poker News Daily: In an interview with Amanda Leatherman during the World Poker Tour Championship, you stated that you were surprised Joan Rivers didn’t recant her comments after watching them unfold on television. Instead, she apologized to Hitler on Twitter.
Duke: We’ve all been in situations where we’ve been in heated arguments. There are things we wish we hadn’t said. You have a camera on you 15 hours a day on Celebrity Apprentice. You say things that you wish you could take back. I watched the first two episodes and the producers cut the aggressive parts together. I was trying to be aggressive and my perception was that I was spreading it out enough such that it wouldn’t be an issue. I wish I had laid back a little bit and thought about the editing.
In the cold light of day, after you are away from the weird emotions that come with the game, you see some of these things and you feel bad. When you see Joan saying that I have 16 faces, comparing me to Hitler, or insinuating that my friends are in the Mafia, I wouldn’t expect her to feel bad. Especially since she’s Jewish, I felt like comparing me to Hitler was the one thing she’d regret. Referencing Hitler trivializes the Holocaust. Instead of regretting it, she went one step further.
PND: Talk about the ongoing feud between Joan’s daughter Melissa and Playboy Playmate of the Year Brande Roderick.
Duke: I wish I had seen what was happening between Brande and Melissa. After Episode 3, I was always away from Brande. I allowed what I was hearing from Melissa about Brande’s performance to influence me and I believed her. I felt Melissa was the better and stronger player and deserved to be there more than Brande. Instead of fighting Melissa, Brande just allowed others to make decisions and move along. I wish I had figured that out earlier. I felt bad that, as a poker player, I couldn’t read that situation better. I wish I had seen what Melissa was doing. She is very petty, talks behind people’s backs, and has a weird dynamic with her mom.
PND: Watching the Schwan’s episode, I felt as if you stuck your neck out campaigning for turkey meatballs more than you should have, especially coming off a win. How did you see the situation at the time?
Duke: I protected myself really well. The food was judged on taste and originality, but you also had to produce a marketing plan. Even if the food wasn’t good, the lack of a marketing campaign was going to be blamed. In the boardroom, there was a very long discussion about our lack of a marketing campaign, which was the responsibility of Melissa Rivers and Jesse James.
I was trying to get them to understand that originality was important and I was the only person on the team who could cook. Melissa has never cooked a thing in her life and Jesse wanted to do the marketing. I agreed to make three dishes and then let them choose. I made a batch of whole wheat pasta and a batch of regular pasta and had my team do a blind taste test. I said if the gluten-free pasta didn’t win the taste test, we wouldn’t do it; all three team members chose it. Now how am I going to get into trouble?
We walked into the boardroom and had no marketing plan, but won anyway. They don’t show me in my private interview freaking out that I hadn’t seen a marketing plan. We walked into the boardroom and Donald Trump asked how we did. Melissa hadn’t cooked and said, “If we lose, I think it’s because of the food.” The next think out of Trump’s mouth was, “Jesse, why didn’t you produce a marketing plan?” The food won us the task.
PND: Talk about the previous boardroom, which saw Joan Rivers defend an auction strategy of pooling the team’s money together to make a hefty profit margin on one item.
Duke: The poor quality of her auction came down to the decision to put all of the bidders on one item, which ensured there would be pieces that wouldn’t sell. I felt that it was disrespectful to Ivanka Trump, but Joan said the task was about making money. Trump jumped to her defense, which was interesting, but she raised the least amount of money on her team. If she wants to argue that it’s solely about money, then the person who raised the least amount should be fired. Joan raised $8,000. I think that it says a lot about Joan’s relationships with other people. It explains why she keeps disparaging my friends. How else can she explain it? She disparages her own friends for not coming out to bid for charity and disparages my friends for coming out with ulterior motives.
PND: Melissa Rivers and Joan Rivers ardently defended each other despite being on different teams. Is that fundamentally against the rules of business?
Duke: This is a business task and it’s like competing corporations. There have been cases where brothers or fathers and sons are heads of different corporations. It would be grounds for removal by a Board if one person helped the other out. Do you think for a second that my brother (Howard Lederer) has ever called me up and said, “Full Tilt Poker is doing something big that is going to hurt Ultimate Bet?” Of course not. You can’t do that, which was Piers Morgan’s point. In business, you can’t do that. The fact that they’re doing it across the aisle is grounds for removal.
PND: Is being a good fundraiser enough to win Celebrity Apprentice?
Duke: Clearly, I’m a good fundraiser. Over the course of two years, I’ve helped raise $2 million for the crisis in Darfur with the help of Don Chealde, Norman Epstein, and the amazing poker and celebrity communities. I know how to get people to understand the importance of an issue. While that looks like the most salient thing about me, I think there’s more. I’m someone who works their ass off. You saw Melissa lying on the floor. You saw Jesse staring at his computer. I’m someone who’s very good at making sure my ideas are heard because I believe in them. The turkey meatballs idea is a good example. Managing the kitchen during the cupcake challenge is another example. I’m someone who is willing to take risks when I believe in an idea.
During the show, I’m not always right. During the ACN task, I didn’t have any ideas I believed in, so I didn’t speak up. I’m selective when I speak up and I’m willing to risk colossal failures if I believe in an idea. I’m also banking on my professionalism in the boardroom to win, but I think that’s a given. I happen to have someone who isn’t acting professionally acting as a foil.