Tom Arnold’s “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes” aired an episode Tuesday dedicated to a Trump “Elevator Tape” — even though there’s no proof such a tape exists.
Arnold, who cheerfully admits he has no credibility, told us on the “Shoot This Now” podcast that he’s turned over what he’s learned about the reputed tape to a “real journalist.” You can listen to it on Apple or right here.
There’s just one problem with Arnold telling a real journalist what he knows: As you’ll hear on our podcast, he’s very cagey about what, if anything, he conclusively knows.
And “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes” ended its season Tuesday night without revealing any Trump tapes.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Arnold’s show, which aired three episodes back-to-back Tuesday, is dedicated to tapes that have never been proven to exist, but the elevator tape may be the most elusive of all. One White House reporter has called it “every Trump reporter’s White Whale.”
Arnold is far from the only one who can’t prove the existence of a so-called “Elevator Tape.” A mention of some sort of Trump elevator video first surfaced in May in a Daily Beast article that detailed TMZ’s efforts to acquire it. The story said the Daily Beast had “no proof” the tape exists.
Since then, other news outlets have attempted legalistic write-arounds to explain what is said to be on the tape — if there is a tape. Here’s an example from July, in The Huffington Post:
The rumors vary from journalist to journalist, but the common understanding is that somewhere out there, a tape might exist of Trump doing something in an elevator, though exactly where that somewhere is and what that something might be, no one in media can say. That’s because no one in media seems to have seen the tape — or is even confident it exists.
The same article includes the May tweet in which CNBC White House reporter Christine Wilkie opined: “The elevator tape. Every Trump reporter’s White Whale.”
On Viceland’s “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes” on Tuesday, one HuffPo journalist, Ashley Feinberg, goes into much greater detail about what “this anonymous person with a throwaway Gmail account” told the Huffington Post’s reporters about the tape — again, without offering any proof of its existence.
The Daily Beast reported in May — and TMZ attorney Jason Beckerman confirmed to TheWrap on Tuesday — that before Election Day in 2016, an attorney reached out to TMZ, saying she represented a client who had an elevator tape of Donald and Melania Trump.
Though TMZ was ready to buy it, Beckerman told TheWrap, the lawyer canceled a planned meeting at the last minute.
“I got the impression that what she was conveying to me was that her source had sold the tape without her involvement and that she was no longer in communication with the client,” Beckerman said.
He stressed: “We never saw the tape, and we have no reason to believe that the tape ever existed.”
The Daily Beast reported in May that the attorney was Beverly Hills lawyer Melissa K. Dagodag. Asked about any elevator tape on Tuesday, Dagodag told TheWrap: “There’s nothing I have to say about that. It’s a wild-goose chase… and it’s attorney-client privilege even if I did have something to say.”
A spokesman for Viceland said the show was thoroughly vetted, legally, before airing.
In our “Shoot This Now” interview with Arnold, we suggested to Arnold that many people will say that if he’s seen the elevator tape, he should provide proof.
“I don’t care what they say,” he said. “I don’t care what they say, at all.”
We pressed Arnold on the fact that the existence of a damaging elevator tape would be major news.
“I gave it to a real journalist,” Arnold said.
We then asked why he didn’t use an app like Signal, which provides added security to sources who want to contact journalists, to contact a reporter and get the tape to the public.
“What makes you think I didn’t?” Arnold said.
Arnold stresses on his show that he does not consider himself a true journalist. In his season finale, he explicitly states, “I don’t have to worry about my credibility, because I have none.”
But past episodes of his show have included real journalists, including New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, and David Corn, the Mother Jones writer who in 2012 broke news of the Mitt Romney “47 percent” video, which hurt Romney’s chances of beating President Obama. Arnold said he has also spoken to Mayer’s New Yorker colleague, Ronan Farrow.
Neither Corn nor the New Yorker immediately responded to requests for comment Tuesday.