"No one is surprised": Biden campaign slams Trump over report he used the n-word on "The Apprentice"

According to former producer Bill Pruitt, Trump lobbied a racist attack against a finalist on the NBC reality show

Published May 30, 2024 3:21PM (EDT)

Donald Trump during the Celebrity Apprentice live season finale on May 16, 2010 in New York City. (Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)
Donald Trump during the Celebrity Apprentice live season finale on May 16, 2010 in New York City. (Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)

A former "Apprentice" producer newly released from his nondisclosure agreement published an account on Slate that details former President Donald Trump's alleged use of the n-word to describe a Black finalist on the business competition show. According to the producer, Trump discriminated against the contestant, claiming Americans would not "buy a n— winning."

That producer, Bill Pruitt, said Trump made the comments during a recorded but heavily edited boardroom meeting that was held to compare the performance of the two finalists in the show's inaugural 2004 season: Kwame Jackson, a Black Goldman Sachs broker, and white cigar entrepreneur Bill Rancic. The participants each weighed in, and it was Carolyn Kepcher, an "Apprentice" judge and chief of Trump's golf courses, who Pruitt recalls advocating strongly for Jackson because he successfully dealt with "more obstacles" than Rancic, mainly in the form of his antagonistic teammate Omarosa. According to Pruitt, Omarosa attacked several of their teammates in support of her "brother" Jackson, and Kepcher observed that the latter handled the awkward situation with "grace."

Kepcher then suggested that Jackson would be a "great addition" to the Trump Organization. But Trump was apparently uncomfortable with the recommendation. According to Pruitt, Trump "winces while his head bobs around in reaction to what he is hearing and clearly resisting."

"Why didn't he just fire her?" Pruitt recalls Trump asking of Jackson, as if Trump had suddenly forgotten that his own iconic line existed to be spoken by him alone.

“That’s not his job,” said Jay Bienstock, the showrunner. “That’s yours.”

“I don’t think he knew he had the ability to do that,” Kepcher added, as Trump continued to wince and bob.

"Yeah," Trump said, "but, I mean, would America buy a n— winning?” Pruitt then looked at Trump, who looked "serious" and "adamant about not hiring Jackson."

After the meeting and Jackson's so-called firing, Pruitt writes, no one raised Trump's comments again. But they vaguely resurfaced in 2018, when Omarosa, fresh off a stint in Trump's White House, claimed in an NPR interview that she heard him say the n-word in a tape while promoting her new book, "Unhinged."

We need your help to stay independent

President Joe Biden's campaign was quick to capitalize on the report. "No one is surprised that Donald Trump, who entered public life by falsely accusing Black men of murder and entered political life spreading lies about the first Black president, reportedly used the N-word to casually denigrate a successful Black man," said Jasmine Harris, the campaign's Black media director, in a press release. "Anyone notice a pattern?"

The Trump campaign has denied Pruitt's account. “This is a completely fabricated ... story that was already peddled in 2016,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement. “Nobody took it seriously then, and they won’t now, because it’s fake news. Now that Crooked Joe Biden and the Democrats are losing the election, they are bringing up old fake stories from the past because they are desperate.”

Racism is not the only charge Pruitt is leveling against Trump. He also alleges that Trump made lewd and demeaning comments about female camera operators, having Pruitt order one woman off an elevator because she was "too heavy" and comparing another one's appearance to that of his daughter, Ivanka.

“There’s a beautiful woman behind that camera,” Trump said, according to Pruitt. “That’s all I want to look at.”

Beautification of Trump and his brand, meanwhile, was what the show was all about, Pruitt wrote. "In the show, he appeared to demonstrate impeccable business instincts and unparalleled wealth, even though his businesses had barely survived multiple bankruptcies and faced yet another when he was cast,” he said. “By carefully misleading viewers about Trump – his wealth, his stature, his character, and his intent – the competition reality show set about an American fraud that would balloon beyond its creators’ wildest imaginations.”

By Nicholas Liu

Nicholas (Nick) Liu is a News Fellow at Salon. He grew up in Hong Kong, earned a B.A. in History at the University of Chicago, and began writing for local publications like the Santa Barbara Independent and Straus News Manhattan.

MORE FROM Nicholas Liu

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bill Pruitt Donald Trump Joe Biden Kwame Jackson