Bill Pruitt, a former producer of "The Apprentice," has penned an insider's account of the show, which he calls a "scam," that was hosted by President-elect Donald Trump, whose empire was allegedly "crumbling" when the show first aired on NBC in 2004.
Pruitt recalled his days on "The Apprentice" for Vanity Fair:
[S]ome clever producers were putting forth a manufactured story about a billionaire whose empire was, in actuality, crumbling at the very same time he took the job, the salary, and ownership rights to do a reality show.
The Apprentice was a scam put forth to the public in exchange for ratings. We were "entertaining," and the story about Donald Trump and his stature fell into some bizarre public record as "truth." This is nothing new, and the impact it’s having on the history of the world is best depicted in the Academy Award-winning film Network, a satire.
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Pruitt went on to say how he never imagined Trump would become a world leader:
We are masterful storytellers and we did our job well. What’s shocking to me is how quickly and decisively the world bought it. Did we think this clown, this buffoon with the funny hair, would ever become a world leader? Not once. Ever. Would he and his bombastic nature dominate in prime-time TV?
We hoped so. Now that the lines of fiction and reality have blurred to the horrifying extent that they have, those involved in the media must have their day of reckoning. People are buying our crap. Make it entertaining, yes. But make it real. Give them the truth or pay the consequences.
After Trump's infamous 2005 tape from "Access Hollywood" surfaced in October, Pruitt tweeted: "As a producer on seasons 1 & 2 of #theapprentice I assure you: when it comes to the #trumptapes there are far worse. #justthebegininng."
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No damaging outtakes from "The Apprentice" were ever released, but not because of a lack of effort.
On Dec. 20, Vanity Fair reporter Nick Bilton wrote about the year-long hunt for the outtakes by the media and the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton:
Over the course of the year, I would hear incredible allegations. But nothing ever materialized. I was told that any footage would be difficult to get hold of. The putative "tapes," a source said, actually referred to mere moments within an almost incomprehensibly large volume of footage—larger than anyone likely could have fathomed...
But most of those 1,300 employees didn’t have access to the tapes. And the few who might, I was told, feared reprisals, or simply worried that blowing a whistle would prevent them from getting jobs on the sets of other reality programs. "They are all terrified of being sued," one person who worked in the industry told me. "Most of these people are freelancers, and there is no one that is going to protect them."
Mark Burnett, the eminence behind programs such as Survivor, The Voice, and The Apprentice, who had earned a fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars, had once sued someone for leaking Survivor secrets.
Bilton said that some allegedly damaging Trump tapes almost surfaced 48 hours before the election:
Two days before the election, one entertainment executive with ties to Clinton contacted someone in the industry who had said he had a copy of a tape depicting Trump that could create problems for the then candidate. Would this person be willing to pass him the footage to give to the Clinton campaign? Since the latest poll numbers indicated it was clear Clinton would win the election—likely in a landslide—this person didn’t want to risk it.