A season of The Apprentice pitting black contestants against white contestants? That would be “the highest rated show on television,” according to Donald Trump.
As the debate rages on over the existence of an alleged tape of the president saying the N-word during filming of The Apprentice, a resurfaced interview with Howard Stern reveals Trump discussing a potential racially-divided season of his NBC reality show. (Trump has denied saying the N-word, while his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that she “can’t guarantee” a tape doesn’t exist of him saying just that.)
Trump brought up the TV idea during an appearance on The Howard Stern Show in April 2005. “There was a concept thrown out by some person: nine blacks against nine whites,” Trump matter-of-factly told Stern in the radio interview, according to audio played on-air by CNN. “And it would be nine blacks against nine whites, all highly educated, very smart, strong, beautiful people, right?”
“Do you like it?” he asked Stern, appearing to approve of the idea. Stern gave his blessing as well, while his longtime sidekick, Robin Quivers, who is black, said Trump was “going to have a riot” on his hands if he followed through with the idea.
“It would be the highest rated show on television,” Trump replied.
After Stern asked if the show would feature “very dark blacks or light-skinned blacks,” Trump joked that there would be “an assortment” of people with lighter and darker black skin tones, but that the white contestants would be made up of nine blondes.
While Stern encouraged the casting, he asked, “Wouldn’t that set off a racial war in this country?”
“I don’t think… see, actually, I don’t think it would,” Trump said. “I think that it would be handled very beautifully by me.”
Rumors have long swirled that outtakes exist of Trump using the N-word during his time on The Apprentice.
Former Apprentice-contestant-turned-Trump-staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman fueled the fire recently with the publication of her tell-all memoir, Unhinged, claiming that multiple sources told her Trump was recorded repeatedly using the racial slur. The Celebrity Big Brother star clarified that although she believes the allegations are true, she never personally heard Trump use the racial epithet during her time on the show. Since her book went to press, she claims she has listened to a recording of Trump saying the N-word.
On Monday, Trump tweeted that Apprentice executive producer Mark Burnett said that the tapes do not exist: “.@MarkBurnettTV called to say that there are NO TAPES of the Apprentice where I used such a terrible and disgusting word as attributed by Wacky and Deranged Omarosa. I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have. She made it up.”
Penn Jillette — who competed on The Celebrity Apprentice — says he witnessed Trump making “racially insensitive” remarks while filming the show, and that those remarks were captured on tapes that still exist.
“[Trump] would say racially insensitive things that made me uncomfortable,” Jillette told Vulture. “I don’t think he ever said anything in that room like ‘African-Americans are inferior’ or anything about rape or grabbing women, but of those two hours every other day in a room with him, every ten minutes was fingernails on chalkboard.”
Jillette declined to get into the specifics of what Trump allegedly said.
“If Donald Trump had not become president, I would tell you all the stories. But the stakes are now high and I am an unreliable narrator,” Jillette explained. “What I do, as much as anything, is I’m a storyteller. And storytellers are liars. So I can emotionally tell you things that happened racially, sexually, and that showed stupidity and lack of compassion when I was in the room with Donald Trump and I guarantee you that I will get details wrong. I would not feel comfortable talking about what I felt I saw in that room — because when I was on that show I was sleeping four to five hours a night. I was uncomfortable.”
Tom Arnold, who has known Trump for 30 years, also asserts that there are tapes that prove Trump was recorded making racial comments on the reality show. The ex-husband of Roseanne Barr has recently been on the hunt for the alleged recordings, as documented in his Viceland series, The Hunt for the Trump Tapes with Tom Arnold.
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“There was a compilation tape of Apprentice outtakes,” Arnold told PEOPLE earlier this year. “In the fall of 2016, I was doing stand up comedy and the Access Hollywood tape had not taken him down. And I said, I’ve seen a tape, because people share stuff, of him. I talked about the outtakes that I’d seen and I went into detail about the specific beats that were put together on the shows and the specific things he’d said. There was a soft N-word, there was calling Eric [Trump] the R-word. A compliment was him saying some of the work there was ‘f—able.’ I actually got out a piece of paper and tried figuring out which episode that was from.”
Arnold said that Trump didn’t specifically call someone the N-word, but explained, “He didn’t want to go to Rao’s [restaurant in N.Y.C.) because there are crazy N-words on the way up there. It was just in conversation, like no problem. Everything he said was not in secret, no problem, just casual.”
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Meanwhile, when asked last week about the allegation made by Manigault Newman, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the Times that the “book is riddled with lies and false accusations.”
“Instead of telling the truth about all the good President Trump and his administration are doing to make America safe and prosperous, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations,” Sanders remarked. “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the president during her time in the administration.”