The Trump tapes and the $5m 'leak fee'
The producer of The Apprentice is coming under increasing pressure to release footage from the Donald Trump-led reality television show, amid growing suggestions that there is a trove of damaging material being held back.
Mr Trump's presidential campaign has been rocked by leaked footage from an episode of Access Hollywood, in which he brags about sexually assaulting women.
Critics of the Republican nominee are eager for the release of unaired recordings from The Apprentice, a show which Mr Trump lead from its creation in 2004 until 2015.
The show is produced by Mark Burnett, a 56-year-old London-born executive, who is now president of MGM Television.
He is described as a reality television titan, having created Survivor, The Voice and Shark Tank - the US version of Dragon's Den.
"As a producer on seasons one and two of The Apprentice I assure you: when it comes to the Trump tapes, there are far worse," said Bill Pruitt, an Emmy Award-winning producer. He used the hashtag #JustTheBeginning.
Breaking: "Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett breaks his silence about possible Trump tapes pic.twitter.com/5tOmakRqIt— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 10, 2016
Another industry insider, Chris Nee, an Irish American children's television producer, said she was made to sign a contract with Mark Burnett to stop the leak of the tapes, on penalty of a $5 million "leak fee".
"Hearing from producers and crew the 'N word' is the 'much worse,'" she said.
But on Monday night Mr Burnett and MGM Television, the company of which he is president, denied that legal action was threatened.
He also said he was contractually unable to release the footage.
"Despite reports to the contrary, Mark Burnett does not have the ability nor the right to release footage or other material from The Apprentice," said MGM and Mr Burnett, in a joint statement.
"Various contractual and legal requirements also restrict MGM's ability to release such material."
He said that claims Mr Burnett threatened staff with legal action for releasing the material were "completely and unequivocally false."
And he sought to play down speculation that he was supporting Mr Trump's campaign.
"To be clear, as previously reported in the press, and as Mark Burnett has confirmed, he has consistently supported Democratic campaigns."
Mr Burnett, 56, is the London-born Los Angeles-based producer behind shows including The Apprentice, The Voice and Survivor.
On Twitter people were calling on billionaire Clinton backers, including Warren Buffet and reality television star Mark Cuban, Mr Trump's nemesis, to offer to pay the legal fees.
More than 20 former contestants, crew members, and editors told the Associated Press that Mr Trump treated women on the show inappropriately, including talking about which contestants he would like to have sex with and rating them by breast size.
“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,” a former crew member, who spoke anonymously due to a non-disclosure agreement, told AP.
“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.”
The crew member added: “The Apprentice footage was super vaulted stuff, to keep it from getting into anyone’s hands.
"The game-show aspect meant that the footage was locked down super securely.”
A source had told Buzzfeed that Mr Burnett, who has the tapes, “is pro-Trump and has made clear to his teams that he will sue anyone who leaks." Mr Burnett denied Buzzfeed's report.
NBC spokesperson Rebecca Marks told AP she did not know if the network has unaired footage in storage, and even if they did, they would not be permitted to release it.
“We don’t have the legal right to give out the footage from that show,” said Ms Marks.