While Donald Trump was publicly bragging about being a humanitarian savior in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the mogul was privately forcing employees of his reality-TV show The Apprentice to return to work in the days directly following the storm, multiple former staffers tell The Daily Beast.
“We all had to come in right after Sandy,” a former staffer said. “We were in his building, and we fought with [a] manager, who said, ‘It’s not from me, it’s from [Donald Trump] himself’… Ivanka [Trump] did very nicely [come down] and thank us for coming in,” the ex-staffer said. “She really was very nice but we were all [thinking], ‘Well, it was easy for you Trumps to simply come downstairs, why are we here?’”
The Apprentice alum, who called Trump’s reality series a total “dictatorship” with Trump at the helm, described a scene in which mid-level staffers were instructed to brave the storm’s aftermath and devastation and reconvene at Trump’s Manhattan building on Tuesday, Oct. 30, a day after the storm hit. Hurricane Sandy, the most destructive storm to hit New York in decades, had shut down most of the city. (The fourth anniversary of the storm will occur next weekend.)
None of that seemed to stop Trump and his senior producers’ drive to keep working. Emails reviewed by The Daily Beast show that some of the staff had in fact worked the day after the storm hit, including having to contact local businesses that were, obviously, in no mood to answer on the immediate day of recovery.
“There was an internal email that [had] gone out for the crew—Hurricane Sandy hit, and we were all made to come into [Trump Tower] the day after the storm,” recounted the former Apprentice staffer, who requested anonymity due to extensive non-disclosure agreements signed by those involved in the production. “I was personally really pissed off… Everyone said Trump was fully aware.”
Even though the film crew and celebrity apprentices were given the day off, staffers on the production office floor—“more than a dozen people with nothing to do, it was really stupid,” as the staffer described—were ordered to take taxis to Trump Tower. “This was not safe, it was a mess… we were all fucking pissed off,” the source said.
Approached by a livid team, a manager clarified that this was “some fucking Trump bullshit.”
“We all worked the day after,” another former employee told The Daily Beast. “The whole city was shut down. It was really irresponsible and selfish… Like, no one was under the illusion that we were making fine art here, that it had to be pushed that hard. It was crazy. Business in the city had basically shut down.”
“This was all Trump,” another Apprentice alumnus said. “If he had wanted us to not brave the aftermath and come to his dumb tower, he could’ve done that. It was clear to everyone he… was saying the show must go on. It was un-freakin’-believable.”
The devastation of the storm in Manhattan was immediate, with power being cut in Lower Manhattan, a crane dangling over a street in Midtown and multiple collapsed buildings. Several thousand people were evacuated due to the eventual crane collapse and at least 53 people died in the storm.
Meanwhile during and after the hurricane, Trump was publicly taking credit for giving storm refugees shelter in Trump Tower, something that he was required to do by law. What’s more, there’s little to no evidence that this major act of supposed charity even occurred.
“We are taking care of hundreds of people in the Trump Tower atrium—they are seeking refuge. Free coffee and food,” he tweeted the day the hurricane made landfall, Oct. 29.
Within 24 hours, the number of people Trump claimed to shelter had increased tenfold. “The Trump Tower atrium is such a great place & kept thousands of people warm & safe during the storm—thanks, staff!” he wrote at 12:45 p.m. on Oct 30.
According to the website for Trump Tower New York, the hotel’s atrium is large enough to hold up to 350 guests for a cocktail party. Packing thousands of people into the fancy lobby would have led to refugee-camp-like conditions—and perhaps garnered a bit of media coverage. But the only photo The Daily Beast could find of Trump Tower sheltering guests during Hurricane Sandy was a screengrab that Business Insider posted from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Besides that, there was no other documentary evidence that Trump Tower had “thousands” of people on the night the hurricane hit. Neither the Trump Organization nor Trump’s presidential campaign responded to requests for more information on any efforts Trump put into helping Hurricane Sandy survivors.
When asked about Trump’s alleged humanitarian aid, a member of the Apprentice crew quickly responded: “Ha. Ya no pretty sure he did not do that.”
Trump’s claims of borderline heroism during the chaos of Hurricane Sandy are undermined by the fact that multiple members of his TV show’s staff have told The Daily Beast that he wanted them to continue work in Trump Tower while practically the entire city was at a standstill.
“We had to work straight through it,” one staffer said. “The city was shut down, no traffic lights, etc. I would bike from bk [Brooklyn] to [Trump] Tower,” he said of his first days back at work during the storm’s aftermath.
“When I was working on the show we basically had to work during Hurricane Sandy which was completely absurd,” another staffer said. “The executive producers for the show pushed everyone to work during Hurricane Sandy. They actually bragged about how there were 20-30 productions at that time that had shut down except The Apprentice production.”
According to emails obtained by The Daily Beast sent from production on the show, the crew was expected to show up on Oct. 26, at which point a preemptive state of emergency had already been declared.
There was an additional shoot scheduled just two days later in Trump Tower.
As one staffer put it, the task of shooting was much easier for Trump who simply had to take the elevator down from his apartment for shots that were to take place in the “boardroom”—the show’s primary set.
A slight reprieve came for a number of people on set the day after the storm.
According to emails obtained by The Daily Beast, members of the film crew—but not other staffers—were charitably given a day off on Oct. 30:
While the film crew was off and the city was recovering, Trump was tweeting away. “Hurricane is good luck for Obama again- he will buy the election by handing out billions of dollars,” Trump tweeted that day. He later added a note of generosity about his ongoing crusade to prove that President Obama was not born in the United States.
“Because of the hurricane, I am extending my 5 million dollar offer for President Obama’s favorite charity until 12PM on Thursday.”
That’s right: Trump also used the storm as an opportunity to further fuel the birther conspiracy theories against President Obama. Meanwhile, the crew that was dealing with the damage of the hurricane was expected to be on set by 9 a.m. on Oct. 31. The city’s subway system was still suspended at that time, making it borderline impossible to travel from one part of New York to the other.
“You know the world is crazy when New York gets hit by a hurricane— and Florida doesn’t,” Trump tweeted on Nov. 1.
But not crazy enough to stop the show from going on. On Oct. 30, 2012, in the midst of the fracas, Trump tweeted that his “fans shouldn’t worry. We have adjusted the filming schedule of the upcoming 13th season of @CelebApprentice appropriately due to the storm.”
The Trump campaign and publicists for Apprentice executive producer Mark Burnett did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.
—with additional reporting by Betsy Woodruff