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More Donald Trump Footage: Does It Really Exist?

Variety logo Variety 12/21/2016 Ted Johnson
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In the past few days, there has been renewed interest in a story that dogged Donald Trump during the presidential campaign: rumors of the existence of outtakes from “The Apprentice” or Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants in which he is said to be saying politically incorrect, racist, or even lewd comments.

All that is missing is the footage itself.

The idea that there is footage out there gained steam after Tom Arnold, in an interview with a Seattle radio station, claimed that he had “the outtakes to ‘The Apprentice’ where he says every bad thing ever, every offensive, racist thing ever. I have that.”

Asked why he wouldn’t release the tapes, Arnold said in the interview, “I’ll tell you why. Because when the people sent it to me, it was funny. Hundreds of people have seen these. It was sort of a Christmas video they put together. He wasn’t going to be President of the United States. It was him sitting in that chair saying the N-word, saying the C-word, calling his son a r----d, just being so mean to his own children. ‘Oh, this is so funny, this is this guy.'”

Arnold continued, “The Sunday before the election, I get a call from Arnold [Schwarzenegger]’s CAA agent, sitting next to Hillary Clinton. They said, ‘I need you to release him saying the N-word.’ I said, ‘Well, now these people – two editors and an associate producer — are scared to death. They’re scared of his people, they’re scared of they’ll never work again, there’s a $5 million confidentiality agreement.'”

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The speculation that there is footage out there is, for all intents and purposes, still speculation. Some Clinton supporters question the veracity of Arnold’s story, and others are angry that if he had such footage he didn’t get it out there before the election. His publicist said that he had no comment beyond what was said in the interview.

In a response to a Twitter message, from a user asking why he didn’t release the tapes before Trump received the nomination, Arnold wrote, “Complicated. just been my career or death threats FO would’ve in Oct. I’ve Heard $ ruin death threats 4, 30 yr. Norm folks scared.”

The rumor that there is a tape in which Trump says the “N-word” is not new. As Nick Bilton writes in Vanity Fair, it became almost an obsession among some in Clinton’s world, to the point where it became a “white whale.” Some of her Hollywood donors would share their certainty that it was only a matter of time before more damaging footage would surface.

Shortly after the leak of the bombshell “Access Hollywood” recording to the Washington Post in early October, there was a frenzy of claims on Twitter that additional footage existed.

The weekend after the release of the “Access Hollywood” footage, Bill Pruitt tweeted, “As a producer on seasons 1 & 2 of #theapprentice I assure you: when it comes to the #trumptapes there are far worse. #justthebeginning.” 

Then a reality TV producer and writer, Chris Nee, wrote that, “I don’t have the tapes. I’ve signed a Burnett contract & know leak fee is 5 mill. Hearing from producers/crew N word is the ‘much worse.'” But she later said that she was just repeating a rumor.

In the weeks leading up to the election, attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference in front of MGM headquarters in Beverly Hills, calling on “The Apprentice” executive producer Mark Burnett, now president of MGM Television, to release the footage.

An attorney with the studio suggested that legal obligations prevented them from releasing such footage, as such “agreements typically contain provisions related to confidentiality and artist’s rights.” Trump has an ownership stake in the show, and will have an executive producer credit when “Celebrity Apprentice” returns in January. Sources have also said that the “The Apprentice” archive would be hard to search, as the show is more than a decade old and not digitally searchable.

And there is the matter of non-disclosure agreements, which some senior staffers have said prevents them from even talking about what was said on the set of the show.

It is not just footage from “The Apprentice” that is under question.

On Sunday, the Daily Beast published a story reporting that unnamed powerful Democrats appealed to WME Entertainment’s Ari Emanuel to release unaired footage of Trump taken while he owned the pageant, but none surfaced, and the implication of the story was that Emanuel was “covering” for Trump. Trump sold the Miss Universe Organization to WME Entertainment in 2015.

WME Entertainment had represented Trump but no longer does, and the role of Emanuel gained greater attention after he met with Trump on Nov. 20, in what was described as a conversation about Emanuel’s concerns about policy.

While there were a number of stories during the campaign over Trump’s interaction with pageant contestants, as well as his feud with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, what is unclear is whether any such embarrassing footage actually exists. A WME Entertainment spokesman had no comment.

The other question is whether any of the footage would matter. For one weekend in October, it looked as if the “Access Hollywood” tape itself would be enough to sink Trump’s candidacy, adding to the ample ammo of what he has said and done at rallies and debates. He was elected anyway.

Then again, Clinton lost by less than 80,000 votes across three states, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. With that slim of a margin, hindsight confirms just about any scenario assigned to it.

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