Over the past week, several organizations—including CREDO Mobile and UltraViolet—have called on NBC, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studios, and The Apprentice producer Mark Burnett to release tapes of the show that many on the cast and crew say contain extensive footage of racist and sexist remarks made by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Meanwhile, MGM will relaunch The Apprentice franchise in January with another wealthy political figure accused of groping and sexually assaulting women as the host, suggesting that all three value money over the rights and bodily integrity of women and are being disingenuous in resisting release of the tapes.
To date, MGM—which purchased Burnett’s company in two stages culminating in 2015—NBC, and Burnett all have hidden behind claims that due to contractual agreements, only Trump can approve the release of these tapes. Burnett has also claimed he is not a Trump supporter.
A story in today’s New York Times suggests that the studios can release the tapes and that Trump may not have legal recourse if they were published:
Entertainment lawyers interviewed this week wondered if Mr. Trump would have much of a legal case if footage were to be released. The “name and likeness” clause is typically invoked if a celebrity’s image is used for profit—not as documentary evidence in a presidential campaign.
Refusing to release footage “could mean that there are contractual restrictions,” said Jerry Glover, a lawyer in Chicago who has worked on reality-television disputes.
“It could also mean Burnett doesn’t want to get on Donald Trump’s bad side,” Mr. Glover added.
Reporters Michael M. Grynbaum and Rachel Abrams also write that “some critics have wondered if Mr. Burnett—whose other hits include ‘Survivor,’ ‘Shark Tank,’ and ‘The Voice’—was simply trying to maintain cordial ties with Mr. Trump, who retains a financial interest in the ‘Apprentice’ franchise and whose on-air skills have generated tens of millions of dollars for Mr. Burnett.”
In other words, this suggests that MGM, NBC, and Burnett have had their own financial interests rather than the public interest at heart, which would not be surprising. The Apprentice has been a financial cash cow for all the parties involved, and its success may well in part have rested in protecting Trump’s behavior on set for many years. If claims of what the tapes contain are true, releasing them would tarnish the reputation of The Apprentice by making clear they’d harbored a racist, misogynistic man for years to sustain their profits.
And yet, it seems no lessons have been learned. The New York Times story reports that The Apprentice franchise will be relaunched in January with a new host, former California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the early 2000s, it became clear that Schwarzenegger also had a decades-long history of allegedly groping and sexually assaulting women on “movie sets, in studios, and in other settings.”
Men protecting abusive men for profit. We’ve seen this movie too many times before.