Is Mark Burnett’s refusal to get involved in politics damaging his career?
Burnett, the massively successful TV producer behind shows like Survivor, Shark Tank, The Voice and of course, The Apprentice — the show that made Donald Trump a household name — is facing mounting pressure to release condemning behind-the-scenes footage of Trump.
It’s unclear what that footage may show, but as Trump faces backlash over leaked audio in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women, rumors are growing saying his comments on The Apprentice were much, much worse.
Anyone who worked on the show faces a $5 million contractual penalty for leaking information from the show, Politico reports. Still, former producers, staff members and contestants have been quietly opening up about the things they heard during filming — claims say Trump used the N-word on set, ranked female contestants by their breast size and talked openly about which female contestants he would most like to have sex with.
Burnett, as the show’s creator and executive producer, should have access to the damning footage of Trump that others are saying exists. And as Election Day draws near, the pressure put on Burnett to release the footage is growing stronger.
Famous civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred has been leading the charge. This week, she held a press conference near the Beverly Hills corporate office of MGM, the production company that owns rights to The Apprentice, calling on the company and Burnett, its president, to release the tapes "in the public interest."
NOW president urges Mark Burnett to "do the right thing" and release tapes pic.twitter.com/X2buwHCMn2— Claudia Rosenbaum (@CJRosenbaum) October 11, 2016
Allred has also offered her legal expertise to help Burnett navigate the legality of releasing the tapes. Since Trump himself was a partner in the show, he may have a legal right to say when and where proprietary footage is released. Burnett actually released a statement earlier this week saying that he does not personally have the right to release the footage.
"MGM owns Mark Burnett’s production company and The Apprentice is one of its properties," the statement read. "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."
How this may affect Burnett’s career is the big question. TV executives say Burnett, who has a good reputation in the entertainment industry, could hurt potential future deals if he burns Trump by releasing the footage.
“There’s no upside to it,” one industry executive told Politico. “You erode any trust that anyone ever had in you. Who would ever want to work with you again?”
But how fans will react is another question. As more and more people turn against Trump in the days leading up to the election, Burnett’s refusal to release footage that has the rumored potential to finally end Trump’s campaign may not sit well with those who actually watch his shows. Whether his decision to stay out of the political arena this year will negatively affect Burnett’s brand remains to be seen.
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