SAN FRANCISCO – With public clamour growing for the release of footage from Donald Trump’s reign on “The Apprentice,” the show’s executive producer and parent company remained silent Wednesday on why they say they cannot release any archived video or audio from the hit reality TV program.
Executive producer Mark Burnett’s production company, and entertainment giant MGM, which bought Burnett’s firm in December, have not responded since Monday to specific questions about why they are keeping the footage private.
The Associated Press previously had asked Burnett to provide the original “The Apprentice” footage for review, and asked again last week, after publishing a story detailing allegations by former cast and crew that Trump frequently used lewd, demeaning and sexist language while on set and pointed out which contestants he would like to have sex with.
In a joint statement issued Monday, Burnett said that he doesn’t have the ability or the right to release footage from the long-running show hosted by the Republican presidential nominee.
MGM said, “Various contractual and legal requirements also restrict MGM’s ability to release such material.”
Since Monday, neither replied to repeated AP requests to provide specific details about any such restrictions
MGM and Burnett also did not answer questions regarding whether Trump has any legal, contractual or rights-related interest or control that would prevent release of any unaired material.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to emails and calls seeking information about whether Trump had any control over the footage.
In the meantime, public pressure continued to mount from former contestants, Democrats and a prominent attorney for someone to release whatever raw footage exists from 14 seasons of programming.
The call for disclosure has been gradually increasing since Friday’s release of a separate recording on which Trump talks about aggressively groping women on a different show, “Access Hollywood,” as the candidate prepared to appear on a soap opera.
On the tape, the married Trump brags about kissing and trying to have casual sex with women, even ones who are married. He also used vulgar slang to describe how, if you are a star, you can grab a woman’s genital area. Trump has since apologized, but also described his comments as “locker room talk” and dismissed them as a distraction.
A petition posted on MoveOn.org by the national women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet Action calling for the footage to be disclosed had gathered more than 180,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. A Hillary Clinton supporter has offered to pay leakers’ legal fees, while more than 1,000 supporters had given $33,000 to a separate crowdfunded campaign to compensate possible whistleblowers by Wednesday.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who has represented many women making sexual abuse claims, including Bill Cosby accusers, delivered a letter Wednesday asking for a meeting with Burnett and MGM executives to discuss any legal restrictions on why unaired footage from “The Apprentice” could not be released.
The letter states that the unaired footage would show Trump’s conduct while filming the NBC series, and its contents are of “extreme public importance.”
Allred, a Democrat, said women had contacted her about inappropriate conduct by Trump before and after the “Access Hollywood” footage surfaced Friday Allred said she could not discuss the women’s allegations because they had not given her authorization to do so.
It could not be determined which, if any, of the incidents described by former contestants and crew in the original AP story had been recorded or occurred when cameras were not operating, or whether any comments that could have been recorded still exist in an archive.
NBC has stated that it does not own the “Apprentice” footage, and only licenses it from Burnett for broadcast. A spokeswoman previously said she did not know if NBC had any footage in storage, but that if the network did, it could not legally release it.
The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
AP TV writer Lynn Elber and AP entertainment writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report from Los Angeles
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