The Mythical Trump N-Word Tape Is Back

NBC’s “The Apprentice” Recruiting Tour

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Donald Trump has a lot of issues with tape. Some definitely exist, like the Access Hollywood tape and the bits of Scotch tape he once used to hold his tie together. Others are more mythical beasts, like the pee tape and the “Lordy, I hope there are tapes” tape. Today we got fresh details on a recording that falls into the latter category: the Trump N-word tape.

Bizarrely, we’ve reached the point where the fact that this story just won’t die is arguably more interesting than the alleged recording itself. From 2004 to 2015, Trump was recorded extensively while filming The Apprentice. During the 2016 election, journalists and the Hillary Clinton campaign hunted for these tapes extensively, as they were rumored to feature Trump making all manner of racist and sexist remarks. The idea that this trove included an “N-word tape” that would be the final nail in the Trump campaign’s coffin took off in the days after the release of the Access Hollywood recording on October 7. First, former Apprentice producer Bill Pruitt tweeted this:

Chris Nee, another Apprentice producer, responded in a series of tweets that the “worse” content was Trump saying the N-word. Nee later deleted these tweets but they were captured by Mic:

@mcuban the price is 5 million to cover the penalty fee. And we all get to hear him use the N-word from what I hear don’t have the tapes. I’ve signed a Burnett contract and know leak fee is $5 million. Hearing from producers/crew N word is the “much worse.”

Nearly eight years later, this tape has not materialized, but its legend persists. Comedian Tom Arnold claimed to have seen the offensive Apprentice outtakes and had a short-lived and poorly reviewed show in which he hunted for them, to no avail. While promoting her book in 2018, former Apprentice contestant and White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman made conflicting claims about whether she’d heard the N-word tape herself.

Now Pruitt has clarified what he tweeted about there being were “far worse” things allegedly Trump said, namely the N-word. In a Slate essay about what he saw while working on the show’s first two seasons, he says he was initially barred from speaking because he “signed an expansive nondisclosure agreement that promised a fine of $5 million and even jail time if I were to ever divulge what actually happened.” Now the NDA has expired.

Deep in the piece, Pruitt alleges Trump used the N-word while discussing who should win the first season of the show. He says Trump used the racial slur after his adviser Carolyn Kepcher praised contestant Kwame Jackson, who is Black:

“Yeah,” [Trump] says to no one in particular, “but, I mean, would America buy a n— winning?”

Kepcher’s pale skin goes bright red. I turn my gaze toward Trump. He continues to wince. He is serious, and he is adamant about not hiring Jackson.

[Showrunner Jay] Bienstock does a half cough, half laugh, and swiftly changes the topic or throws to Ross for his assessment. What happens next I don’t entirely recall. I am still processing what I have just heard. We all are. Only Bienstock knows well enough to keep the train moving. None of us thinks to walk out the door and never return. I still wish I had. (Bienstock and Kepcher didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

Pruitt says this exchange was “caught on tape,” though it took place off-camera, because The Apprentice was a game show subject to Federal Communications Commission regulation, and the showrunner wanted proof that they were not involved in a Quiz Show–style scandal.

So now we have at least one firsthand claim that Trump used the N-word on tape — and potentially three more witnesses:

But does the tape still exist? And if so, will it ever be publicly released? Even Pruitt doesn’t think so. He says of The Apprentice recordings: “Those tapes, I’ve come to believe, will never be found.”

Back in 2016, MGM and producer Mark Burnett, who created the show, put out a statement claiming that he “does not have the ability nor the right” to release the footage. Trump has denied the story for years, tweeting in 2018 that there are “NO TAPES of the Apprentice where I used such a terrible and disgusting word,” as “I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have.”

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung told Slate, “This is a completely fabricated and bullshit story that was already peddled in 2016.” Following the story’s publication, he urged an X user claiming Trump used the slur to “Prove it, bitch.”

Maybe someday this tape will surface. Or, more likely, every few years a new source will come forward to insist that it exists, though they can’t prove it (“bitch”). Either way, the truth is we don’t need this tape to prove Trump is racist, and we’re no longer living in a world where that revelation will keep him from being elected president.

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