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For years, Donald Trumps former Apprentice colleagues have been sounding off on the potential existence of damning footage from the seriess cutting-room floor: alleged tapes of him using racist language including the N-word during his time as a pretend executive on the NBC reality program. The president has denied that any such footage exists, and the purported tapes have taken on a kind of mythical media status. The mystery surrounding the alleged tapes has entangled an impressive cast of characters—including Omarosa Manigault Newman and Tom Arnold, who launched an entire Viceland series documenting his hunt for the tapes.

Neither Trumps apparent Teflon shield for getting away with outrageous and offensive statements, nor Apprentice creator Mark Burnetts avowals that he could not release such video if it exists even if he wanted to, have tempered the feverish search. But a new New Yorker profile of Burnett suggests that the efforts might be for naught. At least two sources expressed their own doubts that tapes of Trump using the N-word exist.

Jonathon Braun, who worked on The Apprentice in its early years, told The New Yorker, “I was the supervising editor on the first six seasons. . . . I didnt watch every frame, but in everything I saw I didnt hear him saying anything so horrible.” He added that editors on such programs often create and internally circulate compilations of inappropriate or embarrassing moments caught on tape during production. “If there was a tape,” he said, “it would have spread like wildfire.”

Another anonymous Apprentice staffer echoed Braun: “If somebody had the goods, it would have leaked long ago. There were no Trump fans on the set. I dont know a single person who worked on the show who voted for Trump.” Plus, the source said, Trump was always aware during Apprentice filming that he was being watched. “In the Access Hollywood tape, Donald was on a bus. He thought he was alone. He never thought he was alone in the boardroom. It was a set.”

For his part, Arnold told The New Yorker that he had seen such a tape, but did not produce proof.

Whether or not the tape exists, however, Braun pointed out that the search seems futile. “Weve seen that it doesnt matter,” he said. “He now says plenty of things that are outwardly racist, misogynist, and fascist. It just doesnt hurt him.”

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Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Laura BradleyLaura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.

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