Of course the year of Donald Trump could not end without actor and comedian Tom Arnold getting involved.
If you’ve been following the True Lies and Madea’s Witness Protection star on Twitter for the past few months (he is verified and at “@TomArnold”), you likely noticed how anti-Trump he’s been during and following the 2016 campaign. Last month, he went after Fox News host and informal Trump adviser Sean Hannity and claimed that in Celebrity Apprentice Season 14 “outtakes,” you can hear Trump saying that Hannity had “replaced [Bill] O’Reilly as his biggest suckup.”
This week, Arnold went a step further, repeating his claim (this time to widespread media attention—try googling it) that he has seen a secret “outtakes” reel made by Apprentice staff showing the now Republican president-elect saying “every racist thing ever,” and then some.
“I have the outtakes to The Apprentice where he says every bad thing ever, every offensive, racist thing ever,” Arnold told Seattle radio station KIRO. “It was him sitting in that chair saying the N-word, saying the C-word, calling his son a retard, just being so mean to his own children.”
Arnold said in the interview that the threat of legal retribution has kept others from going public with the tapes. He also claimed that the Sunday before Election Day, he received a “a call from Arnold [Schwarzenegger’s] CAA agent, sitting next to Hillary Clinton. They said, ‘I need you to release him saying the n-word.’” (Arnold later told The Daily Beast that the powerful Hollywood talent agent and Clinton ally he was referring to Michael Kives. Kives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
On Tuesday evening, Arnold then excitedly tweeted that his “wife told me there’s house line [voicemail] from Trump Camp about defamation suit so it’s on! Open Apprentice vaults [for] discovery! Miss Universe too!!”
There is a lot to unpack here.
The Daily Beast has spent enough time investigating the vulgar and sometimes downright horrific things Trump has done, or has been credibly accused of doing, during his reign on NBC’s The Apprentice to know that allegations of his character on-set should be taken seriously. (These things include Trump, according to multiple Apprentice staffers, repeatedly calling a deaf Oscar-winning actress “retarded” and repeatedly using the racial slur “Uncle Tom” when referring to rapper Lil Jon.)
Still, the idea that Tom Arnold at one point possessed the key to taking down Donald J. Trump has seemed far-fetched, if not quite impossible, in this insane election year. After all, a birther, reality TV-starring, Razzie Award-winning and accused serial sexual assaulter is about to become leader of the free world. And one possible reason for why we are in this situation is Anthony Weiner’s compulsive sexting. We are, in many ways, in uncharted territory.
So The Daily Beast did what many other news outlets did: We took Arnold’s story seriously. So far, we have found nothing to support Tom Arnold’s recent claims, besides the word of Tom Arnold.
The Daily Beast talked to six longtime Apprentice staffers (who, again, spoke on the condition of anonymity due to strict nondisclosure agreements those working on the production had to sign) about the alleged existence of this brutal “outtakes” compilation.
All of them have tabloid-ready stories to tell about The Donald. None of them could back up Arnold’s story.
“I have no idea what he is even talking about,” one Apprentice alumnus told The Daily Beast. “He had nothing on his mind except for sex and saying a lot of offensive stuff, but if there’s video compilation like bloopers on a DVD where he’s saying ‘cunt’ and [‘n-word’] then I never heard of it or… watched it.”
“I never caught wind of anything like that… [or] that going around,” another staffer said. “We would have tried to get it, for sure… But I like the idea that someone had some inflammatory tapes and chose Tom Arnold—naturally—to release them.”
“No, as far as I know, that was not something passed around,” another Apprentice employee tersely responded.
The other three staffers responded, similarly, in the negative.
Still, I wanted to hear more of Arnold’s side of the story. After all, I had been trying to get hold of the 57-year-old actor since he sent that Hannity tweet in November. On Thursday afternoon, Arnold finally called me to take me through his extraordinary saga of Trump, racial animus, sexism, intimidated Apprentice staffers, a frantic Clinton campaign in its dying days, and the fate of the free world.
Arnold took his time recounting to me what he had already said in the interview with the Seattle-based radio station.
“[Michael Kives] called me, sitting next to Hillary Clinton on her plane, and said, ‘The weight of the free world [is] on my shoulder,’ which is what I was told, which is bullshit,” Arnold told The Daily Beast.
When pressed, Arnold also wanted to clarify a few things. He now says he does not currently possess a copy of the secret Trump compilation. “I was shown it with a password,” he said, referring to the type of expiring, access-limited online video link that you can send to others. When confronted with the doubts cast on his story by several Apprentice employees, Arnold said a possible explanation was that “people are scared” of Trump or Apprentice creator and reality TV kingpin Mark Burnett.
“One thing that I’m not is, I’m not a coward,” Arnold said. “A psycho, maybe—that’s what friends have said.”
I asked Arnold several times if he could play me the voicemail he tweeted about—the one supposedly containing a legal threat from Team Trump, in light of Arnold’s recent comments.
On Wednesday, I had asked the Trump presidential transition team about Arnold’s tweet about the Trump “defamation suit” that had meant “it’s on!” (at least in Arnold’s eyes). A Trump transition official who asked to remain anonymous (because of course a Trump official would demand to go on background in order to dish on Tom Arnold) told The Daily Beast that there was “no truth to this” claim.
When Arnold finally played me the voice message, it was a man identifying himself as Hunter Walker, a national political correspondent for Yahoo News. He was not an envoy of Trump’s legal team threatening a lawsuit. He was a reporter informing Arnold that he had contacted Trump’s team to ask if they were considering any legal action against Arnold. Walker then asked Arnold if he was worried about said hypothetical. (Not a terribly implausible scenario to be worried about, actually.)
Arnold then said his wife, who relayed the message to him, was initially confused about the matter, which explains his tweet. He also accused Walker of “fishing for an interview.”
He then claimed he asked his lawyer about the legal matter anyway—and that “someone told [my] lawyer that [Trump’s team] is considering it,” Arnold said. When I asked for further clarification or proof, he said it was all “confidential information” at the moment.
Arnold seemed self-aware enough to realize that what he was selling sounded awfully like a tall tale. However, it is possible that Burnett and MGM could help clear up this matter entirely, by simply helping to facilitate the release of the Trump-era Apprentice archives. But Burnett has consistently resisted pressure to make any such move (and has actively cracked down on Trump-related Apprentice leaks to the press, as The Daily Beast reported in November) ever since The Washington Post released a 2005 video of Trump bragging about being able to get away with sexually assaulting women.
Still, Arnold is one of many holding out hope that the whole depository of unreleased Apprentice footage will soon see the light of day. If the tapes are released, he says, he’ll be vindicated—and the world will get to witness what he claims he and only a handful of others have had the privilege and displeasure of watching.
“If that happens, you’ll see it’s all true,” Arnold insisted. “And if it’s bullshit, it’s bullshit… If I’m a liar, I’m a liar. But I’m not. Just watch it.”