Reality show mega-producer Mark Burnett has found himself a role in the 2016 Presidential Race as the producer behind The Apprentice, the show that made Donald Trump a national celebrity. After the release of the vulgar 2005 tape made during an episode of Access Hollywood surfaced, there has been mounting pressure on Burnett to release un-aired tapes of The Apprentice that could show more examples of Trump’s treatment of women.
Trump hosted The Apprentice from 2004 until early 2015, as NBC cut ties with Trump after he called Mexicans “rapists” while announcing his candidacy for president.
Here is a look at Burnett’s relationship with Trump and why we might not see un-aired scenes from The Apprentice.
1. Burnett Denies Claims He Would Punish Producers Who Leak Footage & Says He Can’t Legally Release Un-Aired Tapes
On October 8, BuzzFeed reported that Burnett could release damaging tapes from The Apprentice if he wanted to. Producer Chris Nee claimed in a since-deleted tweet that producers would face a $5 million “leak fee” if the tapes surfaced without Burnett’s permission. This led to a Clinton Super-PAC offering to pay the $5 million tab for new tapes.
However, Burnett and MGM, which owns Burnett’s production company and The Apprentice, told CNNMoney that the BuzzFeed report is not correct. They called any reports that Burnett threatened “anyone with litigation if they were to leak such material are completely and unequivocally false.”
The statement reads:
Despite reports to the contrary, Mark Burnett does not have the ability nor the right to release footage or other material from The Apprentice. Various contractual and legal requirements also restrict MGM’s ability to release such material. The recent claims that Mark Burnett has threatened anyone with litigation if they were to leak such material are completely and unequivocally false.
Burnett issued another statement to the Hollywood Reporter on October 12, clarifying his anti-Trump position.
Given all of the false media reports, I feel compelled to clarify a few points. I am not now and have never been a supporter of Donald Trump’s candidacy. I am NOT ‘Pro-Trump.’ Further, my wife and I reject the hatred, division and misogyny that has been a very unfortunate part of his campaign.
2. Burnett Tried to Stay Neutral During the Election & Denied Reports He Helped Produce the RNC
In the lead-up to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, three Republican operatives told Mother Jones that Burnett was helping Trump put together the convention. Another source told The New York Post that Burnett was helping Trump make sure the RNC was more exciting.
Burnett’s rep later denied these reports to Mother Jones. He had tried to remain neutral during the election, but the British-born producer said in his statement that he “has consistently supported Democratic campaigns.” Indeed, Variety notes that he has been a donor for Democratic candidates and the DNC.
Mother Jones does note that Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey, both gave President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign the maximum donation allowed. Downey also supported John Kerry’s 2004 campaign.
Oddly enough, when Burnett and Downey’s The Bible aired on the History Channel in 2013, there was some complaints that the actor they cast as Satan looked like Obama. They called that “utter nonsense” and noted that actor Mehdi Ouzaani has often starred in biblical epics.
3. Burnett Tried to Avoid Trump Questions at the Emmys in September
One of the highlights of the Emmys in September was Jimmy Kimmel blaming Burnett for making Trump a star. Burnett laughed during the joke.
“Thanks to Mark Burnett, we don’t have to watch reality shows any more, because we’re living in one,” Kimmel said. “Thank you Mark. Thank you from coming all the way from England to tear us all apart with your intricate plot. It worked.”
When Burnett picked up an Emmy for NBC’s The Voice, Kimmel kept the jokes going. “bbed, ““That Emmy is going on the hood of Trump’s limousine,” Kimmel told him.
In the press room, Burnett was asked about Kimmel’s joke. “It’s easy to be a good sport….I’m sure Donald is thrilled, I bet you he’s emailing Jimmy now,” Burnett said, reports Deadline.
When another reporter asked how he felt about Trump, Burnett tried to dodge the question by asking, “How much free media can any one person get?” He said that Trump shouldn’t be worried about getting name-dropped during the Emmys.
“I think it’s an example really about how everything is changing whether it’s big business or politics,” Burnett said. “It’s all MFMO. It’s mobile first or media over.”
4. Burnett Came Up With the Idea for ‘The Apprentice’ After Looking for an Idea for a Reality Show in a City
The Apprentice debuted in 2004, four years after Survivor debuted. That show changed television, making reality shows popular and Burnett a star within Hollywood. However, as as Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher wrote in Trump Revealed, he was looking for away to do a show in a much less remote location. While in New York City filming the Survivor: Marquesas finale, he was at the Wollman ice-skating rink in Central Park, which Trump operated.
Burnett noticed how Trump had his name everywhere at the rink. As he decided that his next show would be in a city, he realized “what I needed was someone larger-than-life, very colorful.” That person was Trump.
The Apprentice was an immediate success, earning 20 million viewers for its debut episode. Kranish and Fisher report that Trump was making $100,000 from the show when it started. Trump claimed that he earned $213 million alone from the show during its first 13 seasons.
The show was nominated for nine Emmys during Trump’s run and Burnett is hoping to keep the brand alive by replacing Trump with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
5. Tapes Might Not be Released, but Former ‘Apprentice’ Cast & Crew Shared Stories of Trump’s Inappropriate Behavior
Although Burnett might not be able to release more tapes, that’s not stopping former Apprentice cast and crew members from talking about alleged incidents where Trump behaved inappropriately.
On October 3, The Associated Press published a story that included interviews with 20 people who worked on the show. Eight crew members said that Trump often made lewd comments about a comerawoman’s rear, comparing her to his daughter Ivanka Trump.
Contestant Gene Folkes went on record to the AP, saying that Trump once asked a female contestant to wear a shorter dress and show more cleavage. Other cast-members claim that Trump would ask female contestants to spin so he could look at their figure.
The Trump campaign denied these claims. “These outlandish, unsubstantiated, and totally false claims fabricated by publicity hungry, opportunistic, disgruntled former employees, have no merit whatsoever,” Hope Hicks, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, told the AP. “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.”
The Huffington Post obrained transcripts of a scene that didn’t air, in which Trump complains about future America’s Got Talent singer Emily West’s appearance.
“I assume you’re gonna leave this off, don’t put this shit on the show, you know. But her skin, her skin sucks, okay?” Trump reportedly says in the scene. “I mean her skin, she needs some serious f**kin’ dermatology.”
The episode also included singer Luke Bryan. “Personally, I am, as you probably heard, not a gay man, but I think he’s better looking that [sic] Emily okay?” Trump said of Bryan, the Huffington Post reports.
The Post spoke with Cyndi Lauper, who was also featured in that episode. Lauper, who doesn’t support Trump, confirmed that the scene in the transcript took place. “That’s the way he is. It is just very disappointing,” she said.