Frenzy surrounds ‘Apprentice’ tapes

Frenzy surrounds ‘Apprentice’ tapes
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Pressure is building on famed television producer Mark Burnett and the production company behind “The Apprentice” to release tapes of the reality show hosted by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE.

Past contestants and crew members claim Trump made lewd statements on the long-running NBC show that are much worse than the remarks unearthed last week that have torpedoed his presidential campaign. 

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Gloria Allred, the civil rights attorney who made a name for herself by taking on high-profile sexual harassment cases, staged a press conference on Tuesday in front of MGM Television’s headquarters calling on Burnett to release the tapes.

Allred sought to deliver a letter by hand requested a meeting with Burnett and other studio executives to discuss the legal obstacles to releasing the footage. Security prevented the delegate for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE from doing so, though she said she later sent the letter via FedEx.

“What I am concerned about is, if in fact that language was used in the workplace … that would constitute sexual harassment,” Allred said in an interview with The Hill. 

As an alternative to releasing the footage to the public, she proposed having an independent panel of retired Los Angeles County judges look over Burnett's contract to decide whether there is grounds to make any available footage public.

MGM did not initially respond to The Hill’s requests for comment. After this story was published Wednesday night, Burnett issued a statement explaining that he his not a supporter of Trump.
 
"Further, my wife and I reject the hatred, division and misogyny that has been a very unfortunate part of his campaign,” Burnett said.
 
Burnett's statement was accompanied by one from Marvin Putnam, counsel for MGM, who said that the studio would stand by the confidentiality agreements in its contracts.
 
“MGM, not Mark Burnett, owns 'The Apprentice,'” Putnam said. "MGM has agreements with artists across a wide spectrum of creative properties, including 'The Apprentice.'" 
 
"These agreements typically contain provisions related to confidentiality and artist’s rights. MGM has every intention of complying with its agreements with artists and honoring their rights, including with respect to 'The Apprentice.'"

As of Wednesday afternoon, a petition circulated by MoveOn.Org and Ultra Violet, a women’s rights organization, had collected 113,000 signatures calling on MGM to “Release the Trump Tapes.”

Ultra Violet also announced on Wednesday that it would fly an airplane banner over MGM’s Santa Monica studios and NBC’s Los Angeles headquarters on Thursday. The banner will read, “MGM, NBC, BURNETT: RELEASE THE TAPES,” according to a statement from the group.

People associated with “The Apprentice” have helped feed the frenzy.

The day after 2005 video emerged of Trump talking to “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush about groping women, Bill Pruitt, a former producer on “The Apprentice,” promised in a tweet that it was just the beginning and that “there are far worse” tapes of Trump.

In a video put out by the liberal group MoveOn.org, Randal Pinkett, champion of the show’s fourth season in 2005, said that Trump was frequently inappropriate on the show.

“It was not uncommon on the set of The Apprentice for Donald to make public comments about women's looks, about who he would sleep with or who he would ask others would they sleep with,” Pinkett said.

Last week, Pinkett was among more than 20 cast and crew members who told the Associated Press that Trump routinely made sexist comments. 

According to the AP’s sources, many of whom remained anonymous because they had signed non-disclosure agreements, Trump would point to women on set and ask their male colleagues if they would like to “f--- her” — even when the woman in question was present.

Trump denied the accusations through a campaign spokeswoman.

“These outlandish, unsubstantiated, and totally false claims fabricated by publicity hungry, opportunistic, disgruntled former employees, have no merit whatsoever,” Hope Hicks, the spokeswoman, told the AP in a statement. 

“The Apprentice was one of the most successful prime-time television shows of all time and employed hundreds of people over many years, many of whom support Mr. Trump's candidacy.”

MGM and Burnett on Monday issued a joint statement saying that they are not legally allowed to release any of the archival footage.

“Despite reports to the contrary, Mark Burnett does not have the ability nor the right to release footage of other material from The Apprentice,” the statement reads, according to CNN. “Various contractual and legal requirements also restrict MGM’s ability to release such material.”

NBC, which ran “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice” from 2004 to 2015 and will soon start airing "The New Celebrity Apprentice" hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, has said that they do not have any leftover footage from the show.

In their statement on Monday, Burnett and MGM also denied a Buzzfeed report that the producer had threatened to sue anyone who leaks footage from the show.

In response to the rumor, David Brock, who runs a constellation of pro-Clinton organizations, put out a bounty for any unreleased footage from “The Apprentice,” offering to pay $5 million to cover the “leak fee.”

The release of the 2005 video badly damaged Trump’s campaign.

The story has remained in headlines nearly a week after the video’s release, and polls suggest Clinton is widening her lead.

Clinton not only leads him among women voters in most polls, but a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey found that she outpaces the business mogul by 29 points among white women with a college degree, a group that Mitt Romney won by 6 points in 2012.

The prospect looming of more damaging material being released could make it impossible for Trump to make inroads among female voters in the final weeks before the election.

In her interview with The Hill on Wednesday, Allred said that she had been contacted by a number of women about Trump’s behavior, though she could not reveal specific details about her clients.

Asked if she was likely to bring legal action against Trump on behalf of the women, Allred replied, “I am not able to predict what will happen next.”

Updated at 8:55 p.m.