Donald Trump accused of sexism on The Apprentice by former cast and crew
Published 03/10/2016 | 15:31
Donald Trump repeatedly demeaned women with sexist language on his reality TV hit The Apprentice, according to show insiders who said he rated female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he would like to have sex with.
The Associated Press interviewed more than 20 people - former crew members, editors and contestants - who described crass behaviour by Mr Trump behind the scenes of the long-running show, in which aspiring business leaders were given tasks to perform as they competed for jobs working for him.
They agreed to recount their experiences as Mr Trump's behaviour towards women has become a core issue in the presidential campaign. Interviewed separately, they gave concurring accounts of inappropriate conduct on the set.
Eight former crew members recalled that he repeatedly made lewd comments about a camerawoman he said had a nice rear, comparing her beauty to that of his daughter Ivanka.
During one season, Mr Trump called for female contestants to wear shorter dresses that also showed more cleavage, according to contestant Gene Folkes. Several cast members said he had one female contestant twirl before him so he could ogle her figure.
Randal Pinkett, who won the programme in December 2005 and who has recently criticised Mr Trump during his run for president, said he remembered the real estate mogul talking about which female contestants he wanted to sleep with, even though Mr Trump had married former model Melania Knauss earlier that year.
He said: "He was like 'Isn't she hot, check her out', kind of gawking, something to the effect of 'I'd like to hit that'."
The Trump campaign issued a general denial. "These outlandish, unsubstantiated and totally false claims fabricated by publicity-hungry, opportunistic, disgruntled former employees have no merit whatsoever," Hope Hicks, Mr Trump's campaign spokeswoman, said.
"The Apprentice was one of the most successful prime-time television shows of all time and employed hundreds of people over many years, many of whom support Mr Trump's candidacy."
Former producer Katherine Walker said Mr Trump frequently talked about women's bodies during the five seasons she worked with him and said he speculated about which female contestant would be "a tiger in bed".
A former crew member who signed a non-disclosure agreement and asked not to be identified recalled that Mr Trump asked male contestants whether they would sleep with a particular female contestant, then expressed his own interest.
"We were in the boardroom one time figuring out who to blame for the task, and he just stopped in the middle and pointed to someone and said, 'You'd f*** her, wouldn't you? I'd f*** her. C'mon, wouldn't you?'"
The person continued: "Everyone is trying to make him stop talking, and the woman is shrinking in her seat."
Other cast and crew interviewed said they had positive, professional experiences with Mr Trump, and added that they had never heard comments which made them uncomfortable.
Contestant Poppy Carlig, who performed the twirl, said she considered Mr Trump's request "playful banter".
She added: "I don't immediately jump to the conclusion that people are having bad intentions with what they are saying. He said I reminded him of his daughter and I thought that was really touching because I know how much he values his family."
Twelve former contestants or members of the crew spoke on the record about what they described as Mr Trump's inappropriate behaviour. Another nine spoke to the AP about their concerns regarding Mr Trump's treatment of female colleagues but said they did not want to be identified because they signed non-disclosure agreements, or were concerned about wrecking their careers or retaliation from the Republican candidate.
Debuting in 2004, The Apprentice and spin-off Celebrity Apprentice propelled Mr Trump to national stardom following a string of bankruptcies and bad business deals in the 1990s that had splintered his New York-based real estate empire.
The series, meant to showcase Mr Trump's business acumen, became a major hit and his name became a global brand that helped launch his political career.
But on the set, usually inside Trump Tower, the former cast and crew members say, the businessman's treatment of women was sometimes far from professional.
They said that in portions of boardroom sessions never broadcast, Mr Trump would frequently ask male contestants to rate the attractiveness of their female competitors.
"If there was a break in the conversation, he would then look at one of the female cast members, saying 'you're looking kind of hot today, I love that dress on you', then he would turn to one of the male cast members and say 'wouldn't you sleep with her?', and then everyone would laugh," said a former crew member who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"There would be about 10 or 12 cameras rolling and getting that footage, which is why everybody was like, this guy just doesn't care."
Mr Trump would carry on with the questions even if all involved were married, said Mr Folkes, who appeared on the programme in 2010.
"If you didn't answer, he would dig in and say, 'Do you think so-and-so is attractive? Would you sleep with her? Well, what about if you really had to, would you?'," Mr Folkes said. "It was so bizarre, because he (otherwise) seemed so professional."
Jim Dowd, who ran public relations for Mr Trump, NBC and The Apprentice shows between 2003 and 2009, said the mogul was a "lover of women" and a "guy's guy".
"Was he complimenting the women? Of course. Was he behind closed doors with just the guys rating the women, who were the hotter ones on the show? Yes, he certainly was prone to that," Mr Dowd said.
Eight former crew members said Mr Trump took a fancy to a particular female camera operator, and frequently gave her attention that made many on the set feel uncomfortable. Two former crew members said the woman made it clear to them privately that she did not like the comments.
Ms Walker, the former producer, said it was clear Mr Trump was attracted to the camera operator as far back as 2003.
"He said something like she was cute and she had a nice ass, and it was brought to my attention by someone else that he had a crush on her," Ms Walker said. "We all knew, so that's uncomfortable in and of itself. I remember it being too much, that he made it obvious."
Rebecca Arndt, a camera assistant who worked on the show following Mr Trump's 2005 marriage, said he would stop production to make comments about the camera operator's looks in front of the crew.
One former contestant, Tyana Alvarado, said she was not offended when Mr Trump told her she was attractive - but noted that he played by his own rules.
"Most men have to behave because they are in a workplace, but he could do what he wanted," she said.
"In all jobs, people have to sign sexual harassment paperwork, but Mr Trump was putting on a TV show so he got to do it."