John Rich Wins ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

Country singer John Rich went all the way on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” claiming victory and $250,000 for charity.

He was up against actress Marlee Matlin on Sunday’s finale of the NBC reality show.

Host Donald Trump said it was his toughest “Apprentice” ruling yet.

“I’ve never had to go through something like this… You’ve both been amazing,” Trump told the pair before announcing his choice on the live portion of the program.

This season of “Celebrity Apprentice” began airing in March with 16 contestants, each competing in business-oriented tasks around Manhattan to raise money for and publicize their favorite causes. The final challenge had called for competing promotional campaigns for a brand of soda.

Rich of the duo Big & Rich now wins a $250,000 check for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Matlin, who won the 1987 Academy Award for best actress for “Children of a Lesser God,” had been playing for the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

Shortly before the verdict was delivered, the two joined forces to perform a song, “For the Kids,” which Rich sang and Matlin, who is deaf, signed evocatively.

Most of the “fired” contestants were back for the live finale. But one of them, reality-show star Richard Hatch, was conspicuously absent. In the latest chapter of his brushes with the law, he had been returned to prison for tax evasion several weeks ago.

Asked by Trump to comment on Hatch’s legal woes, onetime teen idol David Cassidy, a contestant who had clashed with Hatch this season, responded with a smile, “I think he’s in the right place at the right time.”

Trump was presiding over “The Celebrity Apprentice” just six days after declaring he wouldn’t run for the White House in 2012. For several weeks, Trump had floated the idea of a Republican presidential candidacy during a publicity-commanding blast that seemed conveniently to coincide with the current season of his TV show.

He’ll be back for another round of “Celebrity Apprentice” next season, he told the world last Monday during an NBC gathering for advertisers.