Unveiling the Truth About Donald Trump’s Actions on The Apprentice Set After 20 Years

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By 5mustsee.com


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In January 8, 2004, more than two decades ago, the inaugural episode of The Apprentice aired. Named “Meet the Billionaire,” it drew in 18 million viewers. The subsequent episodes attracted around 20 million viewers each week. An astonishing 28 million viewers tuned in for the first season finale. The show received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program and was applauded by the Television Critics Association as one of the top TV shows of the year, in the company of The Sopranos and Arrested Development. It aired on NBC in prime-time slots for over a decade, alongside its related show, The Celebrity Apprentice.

The Apprentice promptly propelled Donald J. Trump from a shady New York tabloid figure to a well-regarded household name. On the show, he portrayed extraordinary business acumen and affluence, despite his businesses barely surviving numerous bankruptcies and facing yet another on the horizon when he was cast. By skillfully misrepresenting Trump—his wealth, status, character, and intentions—the competitive reality program orchestrated an American deception that surpassed its creators’ expectations.

I can attest to this. I was one of four producers involved in the initial two seasons. During that period, I signed a broad nondisclosure agreement that imposed a $5 million penalty and potential jail time if I revealed what truly transpired. This agreement expired this year.

Nobody engaged in The Apprentice—be it the production company, network, cast, or crew—participated in a deceitful scheme with malicious intent. It was a TV show created for entertainment purposes. I still hold that belief. Nevertheless, we manipulated the truth, particularly concerning Trump, and if you were among the 28 million viewers, chances are you were misled.

As Trump is being held accountable for another alleged deception scheme in New York and prepares for a potential re-election campaign, partly due to the myth we constructed, I can now reveal what went on behind the scenes transforming Trump into his current image. Many days were enlightening. Some aspects continue to trouble me, even after two decades.

My knowledge of deception largely originates from my acquaintance, Apollo Robbins. Often dubbed a professional pickpocket, Robbins specializes in manipulating perceptions. He has dedicated his life to studying how individuals distort others’ realities by conducting pickpocket acts on stage for entertainment. A deception expert, Robbins was once considered the best-kept secret in Las Vegas. By subtly touching his targets to make them feel secure, he identifies the locations of items like wallets in breast pockets or Rolex watches on wrists, surreptitiously taking the items without detection. Robbins even reveals his intended theft before executing it, not to deceive or confuse, but to challenge individuals’ perceptions of reality, leaving a wondrous outcome. While magic often appeals visually, his aim is to influence your thoughts, emotions, and perceptions.

Working as a producer on unscripted or “reality” TV, I share a common objective with Apollo. Like him, I aim to entertain, bring joy, and perhaps provoke viewers’ perspectives. Considering I lack the cinematic impact of movies with special effects or scripted dialogues, I rely on molding viewers’ perceptions and guiding their understanding towards the desired thoughts or emotions.

The prevailing assumption is that reality TV is scripted. Yet, the reality involves creating an illusion of reality by orchestrating scenarios against a genuine backdrop. The more authentic the setup, such as a massive wave looming over a crab boat in the Bering Sea on Deadliest Catch, the more effectively we can make you believe there’s a threatening Russian trawler interfering with the crabbing operation. There’s an art to it, and when successful, viewers perceive it as scripted content. While very few shows are entirely fabricated, every reality program involves an element of deception. Producers and editors act as con artists, captivating you with grand ideas while subtly stealing your valuable time.

However, the ultimate con behind The Apprentice is much older than television. The concept of a “pig in a poke” traces back to 1555: “I’ll never buy a pig in a poke / There’s many a foul pig in a fair cloak.” This idiom refers to the age-old scam of selling a young pig at the market while handing the buyer a bag (the poke) without revealing its contents. Eventually, the buyer discovers they’ve acquired an entirely different item.


p class=”slate-paragraph slate-graf” data-word-count=”69″ data-uri=”slate.com/_components/slate-paragraph/instances/clws5il6e00213b70eaypjluw@published”>Our show evolved into a modern rendition of this scam. It was a prolonged scheme played out over a decade, portraying Trump dominating prime-time television by giving commands, assuming a leadership role, confidently dismissing competent individuals on screen, and finally awarding one candidate a job. Audiences were captivated by Trump’s overbearing demeanor, his sense of.The key to a successful confidence game lies in perceived abilities and foresight, but most importantly, in confidence itself.

As I step into my interview for “The Apprentice,” I quickly realize the crucial nature of displaying confidence above all else, as emphasized by Jay Bienstock, the showrunner. During the interview, Bienstock sits above me at his desk, exuding a sense of authority with a smile on his face. He expresses interest in my qualifications and mentions the need to check my references before hiring me. In a moment of subtle bravado, I respond by saying, “You’d be crazy not to.” This seemingly innocuous remark triggers a shift in perception, hinting to Bienstock that I believe he should hire me without reservation.

Reflecting on the encounter later, I mull over the power of confidence in shaping outcomes. The narrative evolves as signals get muddled amidst the noise of communication.

Bienstock sheds light on the choice of Donald Trump as the central figure for the show, even amidst doubts about his reputation. He explains the challenges faced in convincing talented individuals to vie for a position with Trump, highlighting Trump as the sole billionaire willing to take part in the series.

Despite uncertainties surrounding the project, Bienstock exudes unwavering confidence in making it a success. This assurance extends to the show’s budget, which is substantial for a reality television series, underscoring the importance of creating an authentic and immersive experience for viewers.

The setting in New York City, though costly, provides a fitting backdrop for the show. Trump’s offices, while lacking visual appeal for filming, lead to the creation of a designated set that mirrors a high-profile corporate environment, complete with a fabricated reception area and boardroom.

Adjacent to the main set, a simulated living space is meticulously crafted for the contestants, fostering a shared living experience amid the competitive atmosphere. The attention to detail in the design aims to enhance the drama and interactions within the show.

As production commences, I have my first encounter with Trump while touring the set. His imposing presence is accentuated by his stature and distinctive appearance. Contrary to expectations, he engages in handshakes with individuals, showcasing a different side from his rumored germ-related reservations.

Observing Trump’s casual demeanor as he indulges in a snack break and then swiftly departs for a pressing engagement, I catch a glimpse of a man who conveys a sense of nonchalance towards the spectacle unfolding around him.

The stage is set for filming as Trump prepares for his role in the series, embodying a mix of enigma and accessibility that adds to the allure of the show.The first scene of the first episode is being filmed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange where Trump is set to deliver the initial task. This location adds credibility to the series, portraying it as a legitimate endeavor within the world of capitalism.

From the vantage point of the balcony overlooking the trading room, Trump introduces the premise of the show and interacts with the participants, including his advisers George Ross and Carolyn Kepcher, known as “the shills.” The contestants stand attentively as the camera captures their reactions to Trump’s words, playing their part as observant participants.

The filming process is dynamic with Trump delivering his lines while being coached intermittently by Bienstock. Each episode spans three days, with the first task involving the teams selling lemonade, resulting in a victory for the women. The winning team is rewarded with a visit to Trump’s lavish apartment, while the losing team faces Trump’s judgment back at the loft.

In the empty boardroom set, a meeting with the producers precedes the anticipated firing decision by Trump. The show is regulated by the FCC to prevent influencing outcomes unduly. Briefings are recorded to maintain fairness in the decision-making process regarding eliminations. The producers provide balanced assessments of team members to Trump for a well-rounded evaluation before any firings.

After the prefiring discussions, Trump swiftly moves on to the boardroom for the elimination process. The losing team is called in for judgment, leading to intense exchanges among the contestants. Trump engages in probing conversations, creating dramatic moments that add to the reality TV allure of the show.

Project managers select team members to return to the boardroom for the final decision, with Trump, Ross, and Kepcher deliberating on who should be fired. The interactions are filmed to capture the tension and strategic evaluations made by the trio. Trump’s decisions are firm, with contestants either being allowed to stay or facing dismissal based on their performance and interactions in the boardroom.The person asked Trump to sit down, referring to him as “a wild card,” which resembled a previous comment made by Ross about the boss, Trump.

Following this, there was an awkward moment when, as instructed by Bienstock, Trump stumbled over a line, trying to guide a contestant named David, stating, “We have an elevator that goes up to the suite and an elevator that goes down,” pausing to recall the exact words, “…to the street. And, David, I’m going to ask you to take the down elevator.”

The men reacted and got up awkwardly, leading to an unsatisfactory conclusion given the preceding drama.

From the control room, everyone observed the three men leaving the boardroom. Subsequently, a quick discussion ensued between the producers and an NBC executive. They rushed from the control room to the boardroom to confer with Trump, requesting him to provide a more direct statement to conclude the moment when David was dismissed.

Later, Trump suggested he would simply fire David when prompted by Bienstock to be more straightforward. This led to Trump saying, “David, you’re fired” after gathering the three men back in the boardroom.

The insertion of the line was somewhat scripted but ultimately considered satisfactory. “You’re fired” became the chosen phrase, portraying Trump as decisive and straight to the point.

Trump made few appearances in the shooting schedule, causing tension not just due to his unpredictable on-camera moments but also due to his intimidating behavior towards crew members. He singled out crew members, often directing inappropriate comments towards them.

For instance, Trump made inappropriate remarks about a female camera assistant’s appearance and ordered a female camera operator off an elevator, citing her weight as the reason.

He also made unsettling remarks about a female camera operator who resembled his daughter Ivanka, commenting on her appearance.

Additionally, Trump pressured a female producer to help him decide whom to fire, eventually dismissing her.

Following detailed inquiries about these incidents, a spokesperson for the Trump 2024 campaign dismissed the claims as “fabricated” and accused the Democrats of desperation for bringing up these allegations now.

Trump proceeded to eliminate all contestants one by one in the boardroom.The final two candidates in a reality TV show are Kwame Jackson, a Black broker from Goldman Sachs, and Bill Rancic, a white entrepreneur from Chicago who owns a cigar business. They are each given tasks at prestigious Trump properties to showcase Trump’s supposed Midas touch. Jackson organizes a concert at Trump Taj Mahal Casino, while Rancic manages a golf tournament at Trump National Golf Club.

The show portrays a glitzy image of Trump’s properties, although in reality, they may not always live up to the hype. Both candidates recruit former contestants to help them, with Jackson teaming up with the controversial Omarosa.

As the tasks wrap up, discussions in the boardroom reveal how the two finalists stack up. Trump’s decision will be made live on camera later. The show aims to create suspense by editing the footage to make the competition seem close. Trump is presented with the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, with some expressing support for Jackson’s handling of challenges.

However, a revealing moment occurs when Trump questions why Jackson didn’t fire Omarosa, highlighting a potential racial bias. Ultimately, despite positive feedback from some, Trump appears reluctant to hire Jackson, raising questions about prejudices in the decision-making process.The meeting transitions with a half cough, half laugh, diverting the discussion or passing it to Ross for evaluation. The following events evade clear recollection as the shocking revelation sinks in for everyone present, leaving Bienstock as the one steering the conversation forward. Despite the unsettling revelation, no one contemplates leaving and bidding farewell, a decision I later regret (Bienstock and Kepcher declined to comment).

Subsequently, we capture the final boardroom meeting on camera, Trump scrutinizing Jackson and displaying his favoritism towards Rancic. As we wrap up filming, Trump’s controversial remarks captured on tape are left unaddressed and unchallenged.

Upon returning home, we confront the next phase of our work – the editing process. Piecing together the footage, we are immersed in a deceptive narrative that reaches new heights.

The editing phase in reality TV mirrors scriptwriting in a scripted series, emphasizing storytelling. In unscripted shows, such as talk shows or competitions, what unfolds on set differs from what gets filmed and eventually condensed into a broadcast-friendly format. Accuracy in portrayal is crucial, particularly in competition shows to avoid misrepresentation and potential backlash from contestants. Hence, a meticulous editing process is essential to ensure authenticity while safeguarding the reputation of individuals on the show.

Our focus remains on upholding the notion that only the most deserving candidates merit a position working with Donald Trump. Fortunately, the winner, Bill Rancic, and runner-up, Kwame Jackson, are depicted as competent and self-assured throughout the season. However, had they not met these expectations, their flaws would conveniently be omitted during editing. In reality, both individuals proved worthy of their achievements.

The most challenging aspect of post-production lies in curating sequences involving Trump. Our task is to present him as articulate, composed, and decisive in his directives rather than appearing abrasive. Trump’s demeanor varies, from a composed orator when reading from a teleprompter to an impassioned speaker rallying supporters at his rallies.

[Image source: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, showing Carolyn Kepcher, Donald Trump, George Ross, and producer Rob LaPlante interviewing contestants during auditions for the second season of The Apprentice in New York in March 2004.]In a whirlwind of events, during the filming, Trump had difficulties expressing even the simplest of things. However, as he grew more accustomed to the filming process, he started making loud and often controversial comments that he personally found amusing—some of which were both sexist and racist. These comments were edited out, but if you attend one of his rallies nowadays, you might hear similar remarks.

Zooming in on the initial episodes, you’ll notice a significant change in Trump’s dialogue delivery both during the task explanation and in the boardroom scenes. Initially struggling to recall contestants’ names and the logistics of the tasks, additional dialogue recording sessions orchestrated by Bienstock were introduced during the editing phase. Trump, placed in a soundproof boardroom set, was coached through lines via phone, magically remembering all contestants’ names and appearing articulate on camera. This editing wizardry created a polished and concise presentation.

To address NBC’s concern about Trump’s prolonged absence after assigning tasks in the episodes, a solution was devised. A segment was inserted at the beginning of the second act, where Trump, seated in his opulent apartment, would impart insightful advice related to the episode’s theme. This tweak not only ensured Trump’s recurring appearance but also portrayed him as a prescient leader, foretelling task outcomes with certainty.

Through carefully nudged editing, Trump’s image was enhanced, prompting NBC to request his increased presence in the boardroom towards the end of each subsequent episode. This proactive editing manipulation led viewers to perceive Trump as a natural-born leader.

As the series progressed, Trump’s portrayal evolved, culminating in a prologue to the premiere episode where he eloquently recounts his rise from financial struggles to success in a grandiose manner, creating a carefully crafted narrative that deviated from reality.

Despite these carefully orchestrated manipulations, the reality of Trump’s character and actions remained concealed. The racially-charged and derogatory remarks, alleged deceit, and questionable practices were never captured on camera and seemed to vanish into thin air, leaving an air of deception surrounding Trump’s persona.

While viewers watching “The Apprentice” didn’t suffer financial losses or personal setbacks, Trump leveraged the show’s success to elevate his public image, paving the way for his eventual presidential ambition, which had been brewing since 1998. Along this journey, Trump indulged in deceptive practices, exploiting the public’s trust for personal gain.

In 2005, Trump University lured thousands of students with the promise of insights from Trump and his selected faculty, each paying substantial sums to partake in what turned out to be a fraudulent scheme. Salesman Ronald Schnackenberg testified that Trump University was a sham, transitioning from online courses to high-pressure, in-person sales events aimed at coercing attendees into expensive programs.The sales were for the course “tuition” and had no connection with real estate investments. A class action suit was initiated against Trump.

That same year, Trump was overheard boasting to Access Hollywood co-host Billy Bush that he enjoys grabbing married women “by the pussy,” stating, “When you’re a star, they let you do it.” He later tried to involve porn actor Stormy Daniels in The Apprentice despite her profession and allegedly had relations with her shortly after the birth of his last son. Trump eventually settled the Trump University lawsuit for $25 million to make it disappear.

He went on to become the first elected president with no public service or military background. Although he lost the popular vote, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College, winning in the Rust Belt by only 80,000 votes.

Trump has been labeled the “reality TV president” not just due to The Apprentice. The Situation Room, where top advisers convened, turned into a place for photo opportunities, a bigger, better boardroom. Trump behaved in a confident and persuasive manner, just as he did on the show. The demands of public office now include arrogant buffoonery.

I reached out to Apollo, the Vegas perceptions expert, to delve into all this. He reminded me that if someone wants to manipulate the signal, they simply increase the noise. “In a world full of uncertainty,” he said, “a confidence man emerges and fills in the gaps. The more assured they are, the more likely we are to go along with what they propose.”

A reality TV show gave rise to a greedy hustler, and a pact was struck: distort the truth, overlook the deficiencies, deceive when necessary, and succeed in the name of TV ratings and innocent entertainment.

Trump is gearing up for another shot at the White House and is leading in certain polls. People I know earnestly back him and anticipate his return to office. It’s not only hats, sneakers, a fragrance, or Bibles. Donald Trump is marketing his worldview, and people are embracing it.

Despite all they are aware of, how could these individuals still believe he is fit to be the president of the United States?

Maybe they watched our show and were fooled by the pig in the poke.

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