But did the future Republican nominee go too far in dealing with the female celebrities? At least one former contestant thinks so.
“Watching him in the boardroom making sexual comments to Marlee Matlin, to all of the women on the Apprentice, it was obvious that that’s just a part of who he is,” says 2011 contestant Richard Hatch. “It was obvious and it was grotesque. It was blatant and it was frequent. He did it with Lisa Rinna; He did it with Marlee Matlin. He did it with whomever happened to be there at the time.”
“He went back and forth with Marlee,” Hatch continues. “No matter how she responded, no matter how politely, he would push it a step further with comments about her looks, and how she was making him feel, and about what he thought of her, and how happy he would be to do something with her.
“It was a lot of innuendo, far beyond the norm. It was odd and weird, and people in the boardroom would look at one another, but he didn’t care. [Matlin] was with her interpreter, Jack, and I thought, ‘Gosh, I wonder if he’s comfortable with this?'”
For more about Donald Trump’s controversial interactions with women, pick up a copy of this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Hatch says Trump even used innuendo in the presence of his daughter.
“He did it in front of Ivanka,” he says. “That was not just uncomfortable for me. It was weird. I was fascinated as a people watcher to think what could possibly be going on in that woman’s mind. He didn’t care that she was there; he didn’t seem afraid that she would hold him accountable or say anything about his boorish behavior. None of that happened. He was just that way, and it didn’t matter to him one bit that his daughter was listening in.”
Although a second source confirms Hatch’s recollections, the Trump campaign tells PEOPLE that nothing untoward happened in the boardroom.
“Marlee Matlin is such a nice person, and Mr. Trump has great respect for her, but this report is completely false,” Trump’s press secretary, Hope Hicks, tells PEOPLE in an email. “Just take a look at Richard Hatch’s record, or lack thereof.”
Trump’s behavior towards women has come under scrutiny after the revelation of a 2005 videotape that showed him making vulgar comments about then-Access Hollywood host Nancy O’Dell. Several Apprentice contestants have leveled claims against him, but the footage has not been released.