The Apprentice Tapes: Is There Still a Harvey Weinstein Moment Waiting for Trump?

The media is piling on Harvey Weinstein after an exposé in the New York Times revealed decades of sexual harassment by the movie mogul. The word is that Weinstein’s perversions were the worst kept secret in Hollywood. In short, everybody knew about it but nobody wanted to torpedo their own careers to say anything about it. The rich and the powerful get away with things the rest of us can’t just by virtue of the implied threat of their position. Weinstein got away with his misbehavior for basically the same reasons Donald Trump described in the infamous Access Hollywood tapes.

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

I’m sure that being even bigger than just “the star,” Weinstein also often told himself, “You can do anything.” There are some similarities between Weinstein and Trump. The sexual assault accusations leveled against Trump never gained traction even though we never saw the absolute proof that they were false promised by Trump and Mike Pence. But sexual assault isn’t the only thing people claim Trump got away with because of his wealth and fame.

On an NPR podcast this week the former producer of Donald Trump’s show The Apprentice said that there are still tapes from the show on which Trump is heard making “unfathomably despicable” racial comments.

Due to nondisclosure agreements they had signed, Pruitt and other producers did not disclose what was on the tapes. However, when speaking to NPR, Pruitt suggested that the president made a host of offensive statements that were caught on camera.

“We recorded constantly. We went into the boardroom to set up discussions about how and who should get fired [on the show] without talking and saying directly who got fired, so there was a big, long exchange, all of which was recorded,” he said. “Out of those exchanges came some really unfathomably despicable words said by this guy who is a TV star. I heard it. I watched it, and those things are somewhere in some warehouse.”

Naturally, what people deem “unfathomably despicable” is probably a function of their politics at this point, but given the things we have heard Trump say, it’s not unreasonable to think these unrevealed comments are pretty bad. It also wouldn’t be the first time Trump was said to use crass racist language.

Weinstein also reportedly employed non-disclosure agreements to hide his behavior. The fear of legal action coupled with knowing that a perpetrator could ruin your career, can buy a lot of silence. With men like Weinstein or Trump, “You’re fired,” very often carries with it an unspoken, “And you will never work in this business again.”

Asked more specifically about the content of the tapes and whether they contain only disparaging comments about women, Pruitt said, “No, very much a racist issue.” Pressed further on whether it was about African-Americans, Jewish people or all of the above,” Pruitt responded “yes” to all three.

And, unlike the Access Hollywood tape, in which Bush appeared to be egging on Trump, there was no such encouragement on the set of The Apprentice, according to Pruitt.

“When you heard these things, there’s the audible gasp that is quickly followed by a cough, and then you just sort of carry on,” he said.

Nobody, Pruitt says, ever confronted Trump about his offensive remarks.

“To be, ‘Hey, TV star, shut your goddam mouth and don’t ever, ever repeat what you just said to anyone ever’—of course you think that. You go back to your hotel room or your apartment, and you do some soul-searching.”

NPR claims the White House responded as you’d expect with a variation on the “fake news” theme.

It’s probably no accident that Weinstein was exposed by a newspaper 3,000 miles away. Reporters in Southern California want to keep their jobs too. Trump has more than just the fear of retribution working in his favor though. He’s got a few million people who will unconditionally support him no matter what he says or does, an army on social media deflecting and denying any and all reports that Trump might be not such a good guy. He doesn’t even have to pay them in anything but political red meat. It’s a tremendous deal.

Will these tapes from The Apprentice ever surface? Given the ubiquity of leaks occurring in Trump’s orbit, it’s surprising they haven’t been made public yet. Maybe someone is waiting to release them in 2020 when they might make an impact.

Would it even make an impact though? Or will Trump still be able to shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue without losing supporters at that point?