Journalists, litigants and even actor Tom Arnold for years have been trying to get their hands on unaired footage from The Celebrity Apprentice that allegedly incriminates Donald Trump — and on Thursday a New York federal judge ordered MGM to hand over tapes in a lawsuit over an alleged multilevel marketing scam. Whether they're those tapes remains to be seen.
During a Thursday teleconference, U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield told the studio it has to find a way to give plaintiffs access to footage from two episodes related to their suit. In October 2018, four unidentified individuals filed a class action complaint against Trump, The Trump Corporation, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump. They claim the Trumps convinced people to become independent business owners for ACN Opportunity, which was promoted by the Trumps in various mediums, including on episodes of Celebrity Apprentice, without disclosing that their endorsements of the company were paid.
The decision was first reported by Bloomberg and has been confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter. This comes on the heels of Schofield's decision Wednesday to deny the defendants' motion to compel arbitration. While the plaintiffs did sign an arbitration agreement with ACN, Schofield found the Trumps weren't a party to that contract. She also found that, even if that weren't the case, the Trumps waived their right to arbitrate by waiting too long to file their motion to compel. (Read that opinion here.)
“With last night’s opinion and today’s rulings, the Court has cleared away a number of remaining obstacles created by the defendants and third parties to proper discovery in this case," plaintiffs' attorney Roberta Kaplan said Thursday in a statement to THR. "We look forward to continuing to gather the evidence to deliver justice for our brave clients, and thousands of others like them who were defrauded by the Trumps.”
A rep for MGM has not yet replied to a request for comment; neither has the attorney for the Trumps. In a February filing, MGM argued the tapes weren't relevant because the complaint is centered on what actually aired on television and it would be a tremendous burden to search through "hundreds of hours of video footage" that's stored "in obsolete formats." It also characterized the request as a "speculative fishing expedition."
Former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, who accuses Trump of sexually assaulting her in 2007, is also fighting to get unaired footage in her defamation lawsuit. Multiple former contestants, including Arnold and Penn Jillette, have said Trump regularly made sexist and "racially insensitive" comments on set.