The hit reality show “The Apprentice” and its spin-off “Celebrity Apprentice” have arguably done more than anything else to cement Donald Trump’s image as a successful business mogul in the minds of many Americans, but now some alumni from that show have a message to the voters: Don’t believe the hype.On Friday, a number of cast-offs from the series, many of whom were dismissed by Trump years ago with his signature catchphrase – “You’re fired” – reemerged at a press conference in New York to make the case against his 2016 candidacy for president.
Kwame Jackson, who was the runner-up on the first installment of the show back in 2004, compared Trump to divisive politicians like Joseph McCarthy, Jesse Helms and George Wallace during a blistering speech in which he said the GOP front-runner has “appealed to the lowest common denominator of fear, racism and divisiveness in our populace” and “created a toxic ecosystem in our political discourse.”
“Let us choose Kennedy over Kardashian-ism each and every time as a leading nation,” he added. ”Muhammad Ali over McCarthyism — that is why I defiantly stand up.”
Other former contestants opposing Trump reportedly include Marshawn Evans Daniels, Kevin Allen, Tara Dowdell, James Sun and Season 4 winner Randal Pinkett. Curiously, all are either women and/or members of a minority group.
“Trump is passionately and strategically reigniting a dirty and divisive culture soaked in a history of prejudice, fear and hate. It is unpatriotic, anti-American, self-serving, regressive and downright lazy,” Marshawn Evans Daniels said in a statement.
“As alums of ‘The Apprentice,’ we have had the opportunity to work with Donald in various capacities, including as employees of the Trump Organization,” added Pinkett in a separate statement. “Based on that experience and Donald’s campaign, we do not believe he is worthy of becoming president of the United States.”
Never one let a slight go by unnoticed. Trump released a harsh retort to the Associated Press, in which he called the ex-“Apprentice” co-stars “six failing wannabes.”
“How quickly they forget,” Trump said. “Nobody would know who they are if it weren’t for me.”
Not every “Apprentice” contestant has turned their backs on Trump. Former “Celebrity Apprentice” stars Dennis Rodman and Jesse James have both endorsed him, and season one breakout star Omarosa has been one of his most prominent African-American surrogates throughout the 2016 campaign.
On the other hand, some of Trump’s behavior on the show – such as his infamous suggestion that it would be a “pretty picture” to see female contestant Brande Roderick on her knees – has come under increased scrutiny now that he is poised to potentially become the Republican nominee for president.
“The Donald Trump I saw up close is very much the same man who alternately captivates and revolts America,” wrote season six contestant Surya Yalamanchili this week in a candid first person essay for Politico about his experience on the show.
Yalamanchili, who has authored a book about his behind the scenes impressions of Trump, witnessed a possessive exchange between the candidate and Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion regarding how it was hard for Trump to tell “which girls are yours, and which ones are mine” while the business executives competing on his show mingled with Playmates.
“In that moment,” Yalamanchili wrote, ”the only real difference to Trump between [‘Apprentice’ contestants] and the scantily clad Playmates who were there for his entertainment was that some of the women were ‘his,’ and some weren’t.” And, Yalamanchili added, nearly all of the participants in the show were subjected to both subtle and overt forms of intimidation or bullying from the its star.
Meanwhile, “Celebrity Apprentice” and “American Idol” veteran Clay Aiken has alleged that Trump isn’t even a Republican.
“I believe he’s this way and he speaks another way. And that’s what worries me about him becoming president,” the singer-turned-Democratic politician told Fox Business Network in an interview last month. “I don’t know what he’ll be when he is president, you don’t know what he’ll be when he is president. I’m not sure that he knows what he’ll be as president.”
“They just want to get back into the limelight like they had when they were with Trump. Total dishonesty and disloyalty,” argued the billionaire candidate in his statement before threatening to “play hours of footage of them individually praising me.”