Politics – and Donald Trump – certainly do make for strange bedfellows: Friday’s leak of Trump’s vulgar Access Hollywood campaign-exploding outtakes and the subsequent potential bombshell of looming (and worse) footage from NBC’s The Apprentice have inflamed everyone from Ted Cruz to Julian Assange.
And online speculation about the nature of the outtakes and the possibility of multi-million-dollar penalties awaiting leakers will keep the NBC show buzzed about long after tonight’s presidential debate ends.
Following the hot-mic leaks that rocked the world, in which the GOP nominee boasted about his sexually predatory skills to then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, former Apprentice producer Bill Pruitt tweeted yesterday that “there are far worse” Trump outtakes around.
Last night, Assange’s Wikilieaks posted a Twitter response to Pruitt, apparently a request for additional information about the outtakes – maybe even requesting the outtakes themselves.
Texas senator Ted Cruz, newly (and tepidly) supportive of Trump after a vicious and personal rivalry for the Republican nomination, then publicly (and mistakenly) wondered why NBC didn’t release the outtakes earlier. “Why wait till October?,” he tweeted, with a hashtag that suggests he sees media bias in the timing.
Cruz’s tweet is as confused as it is self-serving (guess who might have benefitted from a Trump scandal last March?). Is he suggesting that NBC released the Access Hollywood hot-mic footage? Is he predicting that NBC will release release the rumored Apprentice tapes this month? Both suppositions are preposterous, and NBC has explained that the network merely licensed footage from Mark Burnett, The Apprentice producer, and has no legal claim to any tape that didn’t already air. The Washington Post, which broke the hot-mic story Friday, has said that NBC News was aware of the Billy Bush tape but took so long on legal parsing that the newspaper had time to make the scoop.
A leak, though, can’t be ruled out. Industry rumors and speculation are rife. Chris Nee, an Emmy Award winning TV producer who says she’s familiar with Burnett’s contract procedures, suggests a $5 million penalty could await anyone leaking tape from a Burnett production. Nee, the Peabody and Emmy winning Creator/Executive Producer of Doc McStuffins and other children’s programming, also went public with what she says is industry scuttlebutt about the nature of the Apprentice tapes – which, if true, would add racism to the scandal’s misogyny.
Nee clarified later that she has never worked on The Apprentice, but didn’t retract her speculation.
Nee’s posts set off a mini-eruption of their own. Producer Brian Koppelman (Billions) weighed in:
The emergence of additional tapes seems likely to at least one formerly staunch Trump supporter. Conservative radio host and TV pundit Hugh Hewitt has called for the nominee to quit.