The People Behind The Apprentice Owe America the Truth About Donald Trump

The reality-television show gave millions a misleading impression of the billionaire. NBC has a special obligation to make that clear to voters.

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Why do tens of millions of Americans believe that Donald Trump, who has no experience in domestic or foreign policy, is qualified to lead the United States government?

One major reason is The Apprentice.

The popular reality-television show portrayed its host in a favorable but contrived light. He would sit at a big, wooden conference table, reviewing business tasks that two teams competed to carry out. The winning team would often get his circumspect praise. With the losing team, Trump usually seemed able to pinpoint a clear performance failure and to accurately identify the person most responsible for it.

Aren’t those precisely the attributes a good president would possess?

The problem, of course, is that “reality television” shows are elaborately constructed lies. Many “real housewives” are not actually housewives!  Trump’s boardroom scenes were no more “reality” than his time in the ring with Vince McMahon:

The producers of The Apprentice edited down hours of footage in ways that obscured many aspects of what actually happened; they advised Trump on who to fire and who to keep around; and the editing served to make Trump look better than he is.

A year ago I urged NBC to level with us:

In the interest of giving the public as accurate an understanding as possible of a leading presidential candidate, NBC’s news division should upload the raw footage from The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice to the web. Let voters see what Trump was really like while the show was being filmed, for better or worse; let them judge if the hours that they spent with the billionaire left an accurate impression or constituted a false portrayal of someone less presidential than he seemed.

The need for the truth has only grown.

Maintaining a “reality TV” illusion is fine for the other members of the subculture that Trump chose to join: Ozzie Osbourne, Flavor Flav, Anna Nicole Smith, Simon Cowell, Snooki. They’re not running for president. Who cares if masses of people remain misled by professional entertainment producers about what they’re really like?

With Trump, however, the truth matters. Americans must decide whether he is qualified to preside over the executive branch of planet earth’s most powerful country.

The stakes of this decision could not be higher.

And NBC presumably has unaired footage that bears on the right answer. It certainly has ties to dozens of people who worked on the show and can speak to what happened.

Here is a list of their names.

NBC News thought that it was newsworthy when former contestants on The Apprentice held a press conference to say that Trump should not be elected president. Surely it would be even more informative to hear from people who worked behind the scenes to shape the show across multiple seasons. Some of them influenced what millions believe about the billionaire. All involved in the show at the highest levels were paid handsomely for their work. Now they owe America the truth.