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Donald Trump Used Racial Slur on ‘The Apprentice’ Set, Says Producer

Donald Trump Used Racial Slur on ‘The Apprentice’ Set, Says Producer

Twenty years after The Apprentice debuted on NBC, putting the catchphrase “you’re fired” on the nation’s lips and starring Donald Trump, the expansive non-disclosure agreements signed by its producers are beginning to expire. This week, one of the show’s top producers during seasons one and two is sharing previously unheard details — just as Trump’s 2024 bid to retake the White House kicks into high gear. 

Bill Pruitt’s first-person telling of the early days of The Apprentice, which Slate published on Thursday, details how Trump and the team behind the NBC reality competition series “set about an American fraud that would balloon beyond its creators’ wildest imaginations.” Pruitt’s account has details akin to what many believe would have been found in the mythical “Apprentice tapes” — show outtakes and cut footage that was sought after by prosecutors during his presidency that even spawned a TV show that had Tom Arnold seeking them out. Here are five of the most compelling revelations from Pruitt’s semi-tell-all article. 

Trump used a racial slur to describe a contestant

Pruitt makes it crystal clear that, from his perspective, Trump is a master at deception but that in a format built on staged and phony moments, he was an inept reality TV star. And in one moment, his inability to recall names, judge performance or decide a winner on the show provoked him to use a racial slur. According to Pruitt, contestant Kwame Jackson, a Black Goldman Sachs broker whose ease and intelligence were clear to Apprentice adviser Carolyn Kepcher, so she floated him behind the scenes as a potential winner — months before the decision was to be made on air — saying he’d be “a great addition to the organization (Apprentice winners were handed Trump Organization positions). 

Trump heavily resisted this, Pruitt recalls, with his body language, wincing and head-bobbing, already giving off “you’re fired” energy. After some back-and-forth over why Jackson wouldn’t just fire Omarosa (he had no such power on the show, unbeknownst to Trump), the future president allegedly said, “Yeah, but, I mean, would America buy a [N-word] winning?”

Pruitt describes everyone present as being entirely mortified, and he expresses regret that it’s not where he drew the line and quit the show. This revelation, if true, could have had some major consequences back in 2018, when a legal group was seeking proof of such comments from The Apprentice set in their suit against the White House after the Trump administration ended temporarily protected status for thousands of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras. This could have been used to argue that the decision was racially motivated. 

Trump, at the time, tweeted that no such footage could exist because, he said, “I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have.”

But this was no isolated incident according to Pruitt, who wrote that Trump “made raucous comments he found funny or amusing — some of them misogynistic as well as racist.”

Trump consistently made sexist and lewd comments about women 

Pruitt reveals that the Trump that was heard on the now infamous Access Hollywood tape — in which he told former host Billy Bush that in terms of married women, his fame allows him to “grab ‘em by the pussy” — was not a one-off moment from The Apprentice’s star.  

After staring at females on set “with the gaze of a hungry lion,” as Pruitt writes, Trump would discuss their attributes with whomever was around him. And his preferences were quite clear from his actions, the producer recalls. 

“While leering at a female camera assistant or assessing the physical attributes of a female contestant for whoever is listening, he orders a female camera operator off an elevator on which she is about to film him. ‘She’s too heavy,’ I hear him say,” Pruitt recalled. “Another female camera operator, who happens to have blond hair and blue eyes, draws from Trump comparisons to his daughter,” Pruitt wrote. “‘There’s a beautiful woman behind that camera,’” he says toward a line of 10 different operators set up in the foyer of Trump Tower one day. “‘That’s all I want to look at.’”

Pruitt writes that Trump also fired a female contestant after her professional deficiencies were explained to him — but, he writes the host managed to objectify her before this: “Trump then raises his hands, cupping them to his chest: ‘You mean the one with the …?’ He doesn’t know the contestant’s name. Trump eventually fires her.’”

Trump’s dialogue on the show had to be dubbed

While Trump presents himself, and therefore The Apprentice had to follow suit, as a “master of the universe” property genius, Pruitt says that the future president couldn’t recall the names of contestants or “the mechanics of what he needed to convey” as the authoritative mogul and top brass in Trumpworld. Pruitt recalls some trickery initiated when additional dialogue from Trump had to be added in post-production.

“If you listen carefully, especially to that first episode, you will notice clearly altered dialogue from Trump in both the task delivery and the boardroom, ” he writes. 

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In this instance, a crew had set Trump up in the soundproof boardroom set and fed him lines while a producer out in L.A. fed him the names and lines. 

“And suddenly Trump knows the names of every one of the contestants and says them while the camera cuts to each of their faces. Wow, you think, how does he remember everyone’s name? While on location, he could barely put a sentence together regarding how a task would work,” he write.

Trump bragged about cheating on Melania at golf blub

One anecdote Pruitt shares came amid that memorable trip to the Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., from The Apprentice season one, where contestant Bill Rancic oversaw a celebrity tournament. According to his account, when he met his star at one of his residences on the property, which boasts a 140-acre course where stars like Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood have tee’d off, Trump informed him of a secret he was keeping from his betrothed (and now-wife, Melanie Trump).

“‘Melania doesn’t even know about this place,” Trump said, according to Pruitt’s recollection. This revelation, he adds, was not mentioned quietly to the producer but to multiple people and was accompanied by “snickering, implying that the home’s function is as his personal lair for his sexual exploits, all of which are unknown to his then-fiancée Melania Knauss.”

The Apprentice audience was “conned”

Throughout his essay, Pruitt highlights various ways in which the show and its star, and reality television writ large, are never quite what they seem. He says the show used a variety of tactics, not just with Trump but to manipulate elements. And this is from the sets (Trump Tower’s “wood furniture is chipped or peeling”) to the dialogue (see, above). The tone of any organization is typically set from the top town. And The Apprentice was no exception.  “We played fast and loose with the facts, particularly regarding Trump,” he writes. “and if you were one of the 28 million who tuned in, chances are, you were conned.”

When contacted by Slate to verify the many private moments in the piece from Pruitt, Steven Cheung, a spokesman for the Trump 2024 campaign, issued a flat denial:  “This is a completely fabricated and bullshit story that was already peddled in 2016.”

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