‘You’re Fired’: Black apprentices urge voters to dump Trump

Jason Johnson, The Root | 4/19/2016, 1:53 p.m.
Some cast members of Donald Trump’s reality show The Apprentice want to give his supporters a reality check.
Screenshot from a recent appearance on CNN when former Apprentice contenders Kwame Jackson (left) and Randal Pinkett debated Donald Trump supporter Andy Dean (right) CNN

If there is any way to mathematically stop Donald Trump from having the most delegates at the Republican convention, it pretty much has to happen in New York. If the real estate mogul/reality-TV star/erstwhile Republican manages to get over 50 percent of the vote in every New York district, he’ll score almost 80 of the 95 GOP delegates available. That means only a contested convention will stop him from being the GOP standard-bearer.

With Ted Cruz stumbling over his own words and John Kasich a nonentity, who can step into New York to bring down the Donald? None other than a group of former Apprentice cast mates, who, at great financial and professional risk, are sticking their necks out to warn America that Trump isn’t just erratic and a bigot, and that the very skills that make him a good businessman would make him a terrible president.

“I spoke out consistently since [Trump] announced his candidacy,” said Randal Pinkett, who is now the chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, a consulting firm based in New Jersey. Pinkett has a unique insight into Trump as both an employee and a businessman. He won season 4 of The Apprentice (the first African American to win the show) and worked for Trump directly for years. Nevertheless, that didn’t color his views when his former boss announced he was running for president.

“[I was] denouncing him every time. I’ve done more interviews over the last year than at any other time of my life, except when I won The Apprentice. But people still come to me and say, ‘But where do you stand?’ So clearly my limited megaphone is not loud enough, so that prompted me to reach out to other apprentices,” Pinkett said.

The alumni of The Apprentice, especially the minority-group members, are a pretty close group. They’re connected by the experience on the show, in addition to colleges, mutual business partners and clients. Pinkett first reached out to Kwame Jackson, a season 1 alumnus who is now running Kwame Inc. and consulting PepsiCo on millennial and diversity marketing. Jackson recruited former season 3 cast member Tara Dowdell, who runs a socially conscious public relations and marketing firm in the Greater New York area, and others soon followed. However, it wasn’t easy. Donald Trump is a powerful businessman; he’s threatened former cast mates about speaking ill of him, and in some cases, cast members are still financially tied to Trump’s empire.

“There are a number of other apprentices that declined. I reached out to a number of folks,” said Pinkett. “[I told them] I want to organize a group of us to talk collectively. Are you down or are you not down?”

Eventually, six former cast members (Pinkett, Jackson and Dowdell, plus Marshawn Evans Daniels, Kevin Allen and James Sun)—five African Americans and one Asian American—stood together to denounce Trump’s candidacy for president of the United States. They all describe Trump as having fantastic business skills. Dowdell calls Trump “complex.” Pinkett says that Trump is great at getting people to believe in an idea. But he also has other traits that won’t work so well if he’s trying to run the country, says Jackson.