Donald Trump’s Fixation with Former The Apprentice Contestant (Exclusive)

Donald Trump’s treatment of women has been widely reported on over the years, and among those included his apparent fixation with Jennifer Murphy, a former contender on season 4 of The Apprentice. Now, just how deep their ties went are being explored in Variety Editor-in-Chief Ramin Setoodeh’s new tell-all book, Apprentice in Wonderland.

In the forthcoming book, out Tuesday, June 18 from Harper, fellow season 4 contestant Randal Pinkett recounts that Trump openly bragged about his desire to develop a relationship with a woman seeking employment from him. 

“I felt it was inappropriate, and not knowing Donald as well as I do now, it was in some ways shocking,” says Pinkett, who eventually became the franchise’s first Black winner later that season. “This was a business show about business professionals. There’s no place for those conversations in a business context. It was unacceptable.”

Of Murphy specifically, Pinkett says: “It was mostly among the men, where he’d say, ‘Oh, she’s hot. Oh, I’d love to sleep with her.’ Jennifer Murphy — that’s who he’d talk about.”

PEOPLE has reached out to Murphy and the Trump campaign for comment. The Trump campaign has not responded to PEOPLE’s multiple requests for comment about Pinkett’s allegations.

Before Murphy, 45, became a contestant on the once-popular NBC series’ fourth season, airing in 2005, she was a participant in the Miss USA pageant system owned by Trump, now 78. The 2003 winner of Miss Oregon USA met Trump while competing during the Miss Oregon USA pageant in 2004 and although she didn’t win, she says Trump approached her after the winner was crowned, telling her she was his “favorite” of the bunch but couldn’t get involved in judging the competition. Murphy then used this moment as an opportunity to get on The Apprentice, a show she “loved.”

“He said, ‘You’d be great. Here’s my card. Make sure to call me. I’ll make it happen,'” she recalls, though she ended up losing his card later that night. However, she still went out for the show — and eventually, she got cast.

“I decided to try out for the show the old-fashioned way,” she explains. “I was wearing my same suit that I was wearing for Miss Oregon and for Miss USA for the interview. It was my magic suit.”

Upon being sent through as a finalist, Murphy was lined up with four other women and entered a sequestered hotel room “and there’s Donald Trump!” Murphy says. Trump didn’t know she’d be in attendance but remembered the former pageant contestant and “affectionately” greeting her, according to Setoodeh. “The other women were pissed,” she says.

Jennifer Murphy during ‘The Apprentice 4’ Finale After Party – Red Carpet at Planet Hollywood in New York City, New York, United States.

Carley Margolis/FilmMagic


Behind the scenes, the book indicates that there was “real pushback” from series creator Mark Burnett about Murphy’s inclusion since season 4 was intended to feature a cast of “business overachievers.” But Trump “ignored Burnett’s objections” and “thought that Murphy would make good TV, equating her looks with ratings,” according to the book.

The reality star continued to give Murphy unfair advantages over other players, including introducing her to the heads of Lamborghini, calling her his “favorite” a mere few feet away from the other contenders.

Even today, Trump acknowledges that he thought Murphy was “really beautiful,” sharing in the book, “Not a question of favorite. Somebody said, ‘Who do you think was the most beautiful?’ Okay. I don’t know if she was good or bad.”

Though Trump eventually fired Murphy, he called her only one day after filming her big boardroom elimination scene. “I didn’t want to fire you, but the producers kind of made me. But I still want to hire you,” she claims Trump told her.

From there, Murphy was sent to meetings with Trump’s top executives. He’d also eventually offer her two jobs: to work in the Miss Universe organization or at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., she says.

“I think he looked at me in a way like he does his daughter,” Murphy says. “But also, I did think he had the hots for me a little bit.”

Following a one-on-one meeting with him in his office, Trump walked Murphy to the elevator. He then leaned over and planted a kiss on her lips.

“I mean, he didn’t push it,” Murphy says. “It was like, one, two, three — no tongue. I just let him give me the kiss. And I kind of turned red.”

Murphy previously opened up about the kiss in 2016, the year Trump initially ran for office. To this day, she insists she “wasn’t offended” by his actions.

The cover art for ‘Apprentice in Wonderland’ by Ramin Setoodeh is pictured.

HarperCollins


“He didn’t grab me. It was done in a way where I could have pushed back,” Murphy says in the book. “I know the difference, and I can feel the difference. when someone is being predatory versus someone just really likes beautiful women. I think, if anything, he likes beautiful women too much — if that’s a flaw.”

Murphy turned down both jobs to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in acting. One night, when Trump came to town, she got a call from him, asking her to meet him in his room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. But because she has “a conscience” and “integrity,” she says she “made up a reason I was busy.”

That said, Murphy would later cash in on some favors with Trump. She requested to get married on one of his properties and even got a 20 percent discount on her total bill. She also got Access Hollywood to “do a week of segments on her July 2006 wedding, narrated by Billy Bush — no stranger to Trump’s approach to women — and Nancy O’Dell. Murphy called Trump again, to ask if he’d tape one of the spots with her, as good promotion for both of them,” the book reveals, with Murphy noting that Trump agreed to do it but only had 15 minutes to shoot the segment. He ended up staying much longer.

“He loves the cameras,” Murphy says. “We were filming for quite a while that day. He gave me a kiss on the cheek on camera.”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on January 11, 2024 in New York City.

Shannon Stapleton-Pool/Getty


However, off camera, Murphy recalls Trump telling her he was in disbelief that she was marrying her dentist fiancé. “He put his arm around me. It was off camera. I think he smacked my butt a little. I was like, ‘Goodness gracious!'”

Though the pair continued to keep in touch for some time, things eventually soured between them as Murphy publicly addressed Trump’s constant attacks toward Rosie O’Donnell, saying, “That’s not how I’d handle it.” He later went on to decline an invite to her movie premiere, believing she was “disloyal” after “everything” he had done for her.

All communication ceased between the pair until after her 2007 divorce. At the time, she arrived at his office without an appointment, and they “basically reconnected.”

“There is something sexy about a man who takes control and gets things done,” she says, noting how she doesn’t see the pair ever having a romantic relationship. “And I’ve always loved when someone is brilliant. I wasn’t physically attracted to him, but I was and am attracted to who he represents — now and then.”

Murphy says she plans to support Trump in the 2024 election, adding, “I think he always had it in him to help our country.”

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Apprentice in Wonderland: How Donald Trump and Mark Burnett Took America Through the Looking Glass comes out June 18 and is available for preorder now, wherever books are sold.

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