A powerful Hollywood ally of Donald Trump has threatened staffers who could release potentially damaging outtakes of the show, a source close to Mark Burnett told BuzzFeed News.
Burnett, the producer of The Apprentice, and his production company have not responded to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News and many other outlets since grotesque outtakes from another show rocked Trump's campaign Friday, even as former staffers have suggested on Twitter (without clear evidence) that The Apprentice material could be just as damaging.
But the person familiar with Burnett's thinking told BuzzFeed News that the producer is backing his star.
Burnett "is pro-Trump and has made clear to his teams that he will sue anyone who leaks," the person said.
Another top Burnett star, the pro-Clinton billionaire and Trump foe Mark Cuban, defended the producer's right to stay out of the fray.
"Burnett can make his own decisions," Cuban, who is also an investor on ABC's reality series Shark Tank, told BuzzFeed News.
Burnett has remained publicly neutral and studiously avoided questions about his role in the presidential campaign.
But pressure has been building on The Apprentice producers to release unaired raw footage of the show after Friday's release of a 2005 hot mic video of Donald Trump apparently bragging about sexually assaulting women and trying to have sex with a married woman.
More than 20 former contestants, crew members, and editors told the Associated Press that 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."