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Mark Burnett is breaking his silence on all those The Apprentice rumors about embarrassing Donald Trump tapes.
While the reality TV uber-producer did not address the question of whether unaired footage exists of the Republican nominee making inflammatory statements — or recent claims that Trump harassed women on the set — Burnett has denied a Buzzfeed report that portrayed him as a Trump supporter threatening his staff with lawsuits if they leaked any footage.
Burnett and MGM released this joint statement late Monday:
“MGM owns Mark Burnett’s production company and The Apprentice is one of its properties. 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. To be clear, as previously reported in the press, which Mark Burnett has confirmed, he has consistently supported Democratic campaigns.”
Speculation and rumors about The Apprentice tapes have been swirling since the Associated Press last week quoted Apprentice insiders claiming Trump sexually harassed women. After Access Hollywood’s leaked video on Friday showed Trump using lewd and sexually aggressive language in 2005, the din online for embarrassing The Apprentice tapes — which might not even exist — has gone through the roof.
Over the weekend, Bill Pruitt — producer for the first two seasons of NBC’s The Apprentice — claimed tapes exist of Trump making “far worse” comments than what he said in the leaked recording. (In that clip, from outtakes from an appearance on Access Hollywood, Trump said he could grab women “by the p—y” because of his fame, among other graphic statements.) Another TV veteran, producer Chris Nee, claimed in a now-deleted tweet that Trump — who spent 11 years as host of the reality television series — may have used the “N-word” on the tapes. (Nee later wrote she had only “heard rumors” of the videos.) That’s when Buzzfeed came in with its claim that Apprentice producer Burnett controls the footage and has threatened to sue any employee who leaks footage to the media. Nee claimed in another tweet that the contractual penalty for leaking footage was $5 million.
And that led to Clinton backers offering money to cover the legal fees of anybody who would leak the footage. David Brock, who runs one of Clinton’s Super Pacs, tweeted, “If a $5 million ‘leak fee’ is what stands between truth and total Trump implosion, sign me up.”
By this afternoon, HuffPo had obtained a transcript from an unaired Apprentice clip, declaring it the first leak. In the transcript, Trump mocks a contestant’s skin care, but his remarks are otherwise mild compared to the Access footage.