Brow Beat

Who Started the Trump Tapes Emmys Party Brawl?

Tom Arnold sits at a panel on a black chair, wearing black-rimmed glasses and a black jacket
Tom Arnold discusses The Hunt for the Trump Tapes. Jesse Grant/Getty Images

On Sunday evening the tension building between Mark Burnett and Tom Arnold broke into physical violence, although it’s unclear who initiated the escalation.

The brawl took place at the “Evening Before Emmy” party, which was a fundraiser for the Motion Picture Television Fund, and both parties are claiming that they fended off unprovoked attacks.

Here’s Arnold’s tweet claiming that Burnett “went apeshit” and “choked” him:

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Roma Downey, Burnett’s wife, tweeted her own account, claiming that Arnold had planned the altercation and posting a photo of a bruise as evidence:

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Arnold’s comments earlier this month in an interview with Salon don’t help his case. “They’re really worried about me being anywhere near him,” said Arnold, in reference to Mark Burnett, “I’m like , ‘What about the country guys?’ … I’m definitely going to do something at the Emmys.”

However, Arnold’s tweet back at Downey insists again on his innocence, albeit angrily and aggressively:

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Arnold’s lawyer also called the scuffle an “unprovoked attack” by Burnett and cited Kevin Bacon and Sosie Bacon as witnesses. Thus far the Bacons haven’t commented on this mess, but other Emmy party attendees have weighed in, including Patton Oswalt, who posted a supportive photo with Arnold, and Alyson Hannigan, who simply confirmed that the physical altercation went down:

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The origin of this insanity was silence, specifically that of Mark Burnett, who worked closely with Donald Trump when Burnett was the creator of The Apprentice but hasn’t let the public in on what he witnessed during that time. He has been criticized for refusing to release unaired footage from the show, in which several sources claim that Trump makes misogynist and racist comments, including the use of the N-word.

In response, Tom Arnold has transformed himself into an investigative reporter who will stop at nothing to find these secret tapes. Or at least that’s the plot of Viceland’s The Hunt for the Trump Tapes With Tom Arnold, an eight-part series set to premiere on Tuesday.

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Burnett claims that he no longer has access to the footage, and it’s true that MGM bought The Apprentice archives from Burnett’s company. However, Burnett did spend years in close proximity to Trump, bolstering the public figure’s fame and creating the image of a competent leader. In this context his silence on Trump’s character appears both significant and cowardly. While a reality show in which an ex-actor poses as a journalist is not the antidote to political discourse that has devolved into crass entertainment, the silence of men afraid to be truthful about our president should be placed in the spotlight.

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