Mark Burnett of 'Apprentice' can't release Trump tapes, if they exist

Expecting to hear more toxic talk about women by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on long-hidden tapes from his years on The Apprentice? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Mark Burnett, producer of The Apprentice, does not confirm or deny there are such tapes. But he says he can't release any tapes, if they exist, because he doesn't control them. Furthermore, he says, he hasn't threatened to sue any staff member who leaks such tapes, despite reports to the contrary.

And, by the way, Burnett says he's supported Democrats in the past.

Burnett issued a statement late Monday, attempting to deflect growing calls for the executive producer of Trump's The Apprentice reality series to produce any video or audiotapes of Trump talking about women in sexist and obscene terms from the 14 seasons he starred on Apprentice.

No can do, Burnett says. "Despite reports to the contrary, Mark Burnett does not have the ability nor the right to release footage or other material from The Apprentice," he said in a statement emailed to USA TODAY.

That's because MGM Television and Digital Group owns Burnett's production company, he said in the statement, although he left out that he is president of MGM.

"Various contractual and legal requirements also restrict MGM’s ability to release such material," the statement said, without explaining what those might be.

"The recent claims that Mark Burnett has threatened anyone with litigation if they were to leak such material are completely and unequivocally false," the statement added.

"To be clear, as previously reported in the press, which Mark Burnett has confirmed, he has consistently supported Democratic campaigns,” including donating large sums to Barack Obama in 2008 and John Kerry in 2004. There is no record of him donating to a national Republican candidate in the past two decades, according to left-leaning Mother Jones magazine in June.

Burnett's statement followed another day of turmoil for the Trump presidential campaign as he deals with the fallout from a leak Friday of a 2005 tape of Trump and then-Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush laughing and joking about groping and sexually assaulting women.

The leak itself followed an Associated Press report last week that said Trump repeatedly demeaned women with sexist language, rated female contestants by the size of their breasts, and talked about which ones he'd like to have sex with.

After the Access tape leaked, speculation mounted that there had to be more tapes, given Trump's long years as a reality TV star.

Then BuzzFeed reported Saturday that Burnett is "pro-Trump" and made clear to his staff he will sue anyone who leaks.

David Brock, a Hillary Clinton ally, promised he would back the leaker financially, and a GoFundMe campaign aims to raise $5 million to get the possessor of these alleged tapes to come forward. So far, only about $19,000 has been raised.

"There are risks to releasing this footage, including a potential $5 million dollar lawsuit, other legal fees or adverse professional implications," the page says. "This campaign hopes to raise the funds to pay those penalties and reward the whistleblower responsible with whatever remains to assist them as they move forward in their career."

Now Burnett has tried to put the kibosh on this line of inquiry.

Burnett, 56, is known in Hollywood as an enormously successful, award-winning reality TV producer, responsible for shows including The Voice and Celebrity Apprentice (NBC); Survivor andthe People's Choice Awards (CBS); and Shark Tank (ABC).

He has a particular interest in Christian-themed cable miniseries, including The Bibleand A.D. The Bible Continues. He just produced — with his wife, Northern Ireland-born actress Roma Downey (who played an angel on TV for years in the 1990s) — a reboot of Ben-Hur, which did not do well at the box office when it opened in August.



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