Stephen Colbert devoted a segment to his show Tuesday to the irony of ironies: Amazon, about to acquire MGM, would be gaining a studio that owned The Apprentice, and with it the long-sought holy grail for anti-Donald Trump activists: outtakes from the show.
The would mean that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, a frequent Trump target, would effectively control rights to potentially embarrassing and perhaps even incendiary footage.
“Holy mother of DVD extras! The private footage of a TV billionaire is going to belong to an actual billionaire,” Colbert said.
But it’s unclear, and a bit confusing, as to whether Amazon’s acquisition would give it rights to the outtakes. MGM Studios owns The Apprentice and all its materials, including all footage, according to a source. Yet in previous speculation over what the footage contains, advanced most famously by actor Tom Arnold, MGM and Mark Burnett have indicated there are other issues at work that have tied up the rights and prevent their release. Burnett’s production company is owned by MGM.
In 2016, just weeks before the election, MGM and Burnett released a joint statement in which they said, “Despite reports to the contrary, Mark Burnett does not have the ability nor the right to release footage or other material from The Apprentice. Various contractual and legal requirements also restrict MGM’s ability to release such material.” A New York Times investigation of Trump’s taxes last year showed that he had a 50% share of the show, but it’s unclear if that is still the case. A spokesperson for Amazon did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did a spokesperson for the former president.
In the meantime, it’s made for an amusing bit of speculation over what happens to the clips. Arnold has maintained that he has seen a compilation tape of the outtakes where Trump uses racist language, and even made it part of a Vice TV reality series, The Hunt for the Trump Tapes.
Colbert said, “If this is true, someday soon, Bezos may release the most racist thing in the MGM catalog, other than Gone with the Wind. … Now, Mount Flushmore’s arch nemesis owns it all.” (To be correct, Gone with the Wind is not part of the deal, and the rights are owned by WarnerMedia.)