An Associated Press story posted on Monday alleged that during the production of "The Apprentice," Donald Trump repeatedly demeaned women with his lewd talk and behavior. The story alleged Trump had engaged in behavior that including discussions on which contestants he'd like to sleep with, as well as on ongoing sexual harassment of a female camerawoman:
Former producer Katherine Walker said Trump frequently talked about women's bodies during the five seasons she worked with him and said he speculated about which female contestant would be "a tiger in bed."
A former crew member who signed a non-disclosure agreement and asked not to be identified, recalled that Trump asked male contestants whether they would sleep with a particular female contestant, then expressed his own interest.
"We were in the boardroom one time figuring out who to blame for the task, and he just stopped in the middle and pointed to someone and said, 'You'd f... her, wouldn't you? I'd f... her. C'mon, wouldn't you?'"
The person continued: "Everyone is trying to make him stop talking, and the woman is shrinking in her seat."
Following the release of the story, the AP as well as other news organizations requested access to raw, unedited footage from the production of "The Apprentice." NBC referred all requests to producer Mark Burnett, whose production company co-owns and produces the show. Burnett's company declined request for comments and based on their silence, it's difficult to know what footage might be available. It's also not clear what, if any, behavior described in the AP article might have been captured and retained by the production company. But one NBC executive I spoke with on background Saturday said that any decisions on releasing footage would have to come from Burnett and Trump and would likely be guided by the details of their overall production deal for the show. And those details have so far not been made public.
The details of any television production deal can be convoluted and secretive, and the parameters that define "The Apprentice" deal between Donald Trump and Mark Burnett's production company are less transparent than most. Particularly since Burnett's company United Artists Media was purchased in 2015 by MGM Television. But according to two sources familiar with aspects of the show's production, raw footage from "The Apprentice" can't be made public without the permission of Donald Trump. And based on several stories about his alleged behavior during the taping of the show, it seems unlikely that he would agree to any release of audio or video footage that would further damage his struggling Presidential campaign.
There are several details that probably lock up the footage, according to my sources, who asked to remain anonymous because of non-disclosure agreements they had signed during the production or promotion of the show. The first is that Donald Trump co-owns "The Apprentice" format with Mark Burnett, although the percentage each owns isn't clear to anyone I spoke with. When Trump and Burnett originally decided to do the show in 2002, both men told the press they had made an initial "handshake" deal with split the rights 50/50. I've been told that the deal has been renegotiated several times over the run of the series, most recently in 2014. A company controlled by the Trump Family is believed to have retained a smaller than 50 percent ownership in the show, but no one I spoke had definitive knowledge of the details of the current contract. But what seems clear is that Trump's organization did retain some sort of approval rights on decisions such as licensing, casting and control of the unreleased footage and other work product related to the production of the show.
Another snag in any plan to release raw footage from the production of "The Apprentice" is that nearly everyone employed by Donald Trump is working under some version of a confidentiality agreement that was signed at the time of their employment. Those agreements further complicate any efforts to release conversations that include Trump organization employees. There is also believed to be some sort of agreement between Burnett's production company and the Trump organization that prohibits negative public comments from either party. All of which make it unlikely at this point that raw "Apprentice" footage will be made public before the November election.
According to one source, there is a bit of an out for Burnett, because the "Apprentice" contracts do include a vaguely worded clause that covers "actionable illegal acts." Misogynistic talk about contestants or crew wouldn't be enough to trigger the clause, and producers would have to prove Trump's off-camera behavior crosses the line into acts that could possibly be prosecuted. And as far anyone from outside the production of "The Apprentice" knows, there aren't any actions by Trump that meet that standard.
Earlier this week, the Trump campaign issued a general denial to the statements attributed to Trump in the AP story. The campaign also declined to answer questions about details of "The Apprentice" contract when contacted by AllYourScreens. Representatives for Mark Burnett and MGM Television have also declined to respond to messages seeking clarification on the details included in this story.
PLUS: "Leaking 'Apprentice' Outtakes Not As Easy As You Might Think"