The hunt for the tapes is on.
In the wake of a leak last week of a tape in which Donald Trump is heard making crude and predatory comments about women in 2005, the question is: Are there more?
Because Trump has lived much of his adult life in front of cameras and microphones, the answer is undoubtedly yes. Whether there are more that are as shocking and potentially campaign-altering as the outtakes from the “Access Hollywood” hot-mic video of 11 years ago, however, remains to be seen.
The “Access” video, leaked Friday to The Washington Post, focused immediate attention on the “Apprentice” reality-TV franchise in which Trump starred for 14 seasons. Former contestants and a former producer of the program say Trump made a number of sexist and racist comments that viewers never saw but cameras recorded.
But actually seeing and hearing such alleged comments is proving problematic.
“Apprentice” producer Mark Burnett and MGM, which owns a majority of Burnett’s production company, have said “contractual and legal requirements” prohibit them from releasing any material. NBC, which aired “The Apprentice” and licensed it from Burnett, has said it has no access to the recordings. That may mean that potentially history-making footage may never be publicly seen.
Crew members on the program told the Associated Press that Trump repeatedly made inappropriate comments about female contestants during tapings but that the worst of it was edited out before the episodes aired. In its report last month, the news service quoted a former production employee who said there were “10 or 12 cameras rolling and getting that footage, which is why everybody was like, ‘This guy just doesn’t care.’ ”
The AP story reportedly prompted “Access Hollywood” to search its archives, which turned up the video of Trump engaging in what he has called “locker-room talk” with then-host Billy Bush. The program’s representatives said they have found nothing as explosive in other interviews they reviewed.
Tapes of Trump’s old interviews on Howard Stern’s radio program also have proved revealing. Those recordings include Trump talking about engaging in three-way sex and bragging about barging in on contestants in the Miss Universe contest as they were changing clothes. (The Trump Organization formerly owned the Miss Universe pageant.)
News and TV archives throughout the country report seeing renewed interest in material about Trump’s long career. So far, however, they have turned up nothing as newsworthy or eye-opening as the Stern or “Access Hollywood” tapes.
The richest source may be the Wolfson Archives at Miami Dade College, a repository of local TV news footage. The archives contain various TV interviews with Trump over the years, including him talking about his purchase of Eastern Airlines’ jet fleet to start the Trump Shuttle in 1989 and his purchase of the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach in 1985, said Rene Ramos, the archives’ director. There’s also footage of Trump presiding over the Miss Universe pageant, held in Miami in 1997 and 2014.
Other public sources include UCLA’s Film and Television Archive and the Vanderbilt University Television News Archive, which maintains an archive of network news broadcasts dating to 1968. Representatives of both archives say they’ve had to turn away news organizations and researchers seeking unexpurgated outtakes; both carry only news clips that have aired, not raw material left on the editing floor.
As with the “Apprentice” outtakes, unaired footage is typically closely held by broadcasters and production companies or no longer exists, one archivist said. Many news organizations have recorded over or discarded their old tapes, she said, while entertainment companies closely hold their clips out of fear of being sued if they release footage damaging to a performer’s career.
Nevertheless, Trump clearly has been the subject of videos that could come back to haunt him.
His time in the public eye includes not just “The Apprentice,” “Celebrity Apprentice,” the Miss Universe pageant and his role in multiple news stories but also cameos in at least 20 movies and TV shows, dating from an uncredited appearance in a 1985 episode of “The Jeffersons,” according to the IMDB database. He has also appeared on “The Nanny,” “Spin City” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” In addition, CNN has disclosed that he participated in the making of three Playboy videos.
“Donald Trump has been one of the most ubiquitous persons on television and radio in the last few decades,” said Michael Kranish, the co-author of “Trump Revealed,” a book produced by The Post’s reporting staff and published in August.
What is striking, Kranish noted, is that Trump forecast that he would someday be ensnared by his ubiquity and loose lips.
“Can you imagine me running for office? Wouldn’t you say I’m a little controversial for that?” he asked Larry King in 1990. Several years later, as the scandal over President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky unfolded, Trump, to Chris Matthews, said of a possible political campaign: “Can you imagine how controversial that’d be? You think about him with the women. How about me with the women?”