Donald Trump came under fire this week for vulgar, denigrating remarks he made in an audio recording from 2005, later excusing the conversation as “locker room talk.” However, “locker room” talk was the precise reason the Republican presidential nominee fired professional wrestler Maria Kanellis during the third season of “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010.
Kaneillis spoke with ET on Tuesday, where she opened up about her firing and the 70-year-old business mogul’s controversial “Trump Tape.”
“He fired me for what I said, and what he said was much worse so,” Kanellis shared. “My hope is that he gets fired as the Republican nominee.”
On Monday, “The Daily Show” dug up a clip of the NBC competition series in which Kanellis told one of her fellow contestants -- celebrity chef Curtis Stone -- that “the reason why I said you were so arrogant was because you came in our dressing room and you took a crap and left the stench in the room.”
Trump criticized Kanellis for her comments, which he referred to as “sort of gross” and “a little below the belt,” before dropping the axe: “This is my boardroom, it’s not a locker room,” he told Kanellis. “Maria, you’re fired.”
According to the TNA wrestler, she didn’t really “make the connection” between Trump’s language when firing her and his dismissal of his misogynistic 2005 remarks until she saw an article about it on Monday.
“When I first saw it, I was astounded that anybody remembered it,” she admitted. “But then again, we are talking about a presidential nominee. When he is a hypocrite about things that he says, I guess then it starts to become a news story.”
Last week, audio was released of a hot mic conversation between Trump and then-”Access Hollywood” co-host Billy Bush, in which Trump said he could “just start kissing” women, among other graphic examples of sexual assault, because “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Trump has since brushed off the remarks as “locker room talk” several times, although Kanellis disagrees with that description.
“I don’t think that is locker room talk. I have been in locker rooms for the past 12 years in wrestling companies,” she explained. “I have been backstage, I have been in green rooms and I have never heard anyone talk like that.”
“When you are trying to become president, you are held to a higher standard. Even if you have a past. You should have been a little bit more careful, you should have never said those type of things if you want to hold the highest office in the United States of America,” she added. “So I don’t think it was locker room talk, I think it was assault.”
As for getting fired from the show, Kanellis said she “knew it was coming.”
“[Among] the people in front of me [finalists Holly Robinson Peete, Bret Michaels, Sharon Osbourne and Stone], I had the least amount of celebrity,” she recounted, explaining that the show’s ratings “depend on popularity,” and that she had the least amount of name recognition. “I knew it was coming but I wasn’t expecting it to come like that.”
In the wake of the Trump Tape, many have called for the release of unaired footage from Trump’s 14 seasons of “The Apprentice,” citing the possibility of further examples of the politician making lewd or disparaging remarks.
Kanellis said she could clearly remember one instance in which she felt objectified by Trump, which occurred in the boardroom when she was wearing a sleeveless shirt.
“I have a mole on my shoulder and he said to me that I should have the mole removed because it is an imperfection,” she recalled. “I just felt as if that comment didn’t belong in the boardroom, I felt as if he should not be making comments like that to me and telling me that a part of my body is an imperfection.”
“It wasn’t something that bothered me [at the time], but as a presidential nominee, it bothers me because of all the recent comments and things that he has said or that has come out,” she continued. “It just shows more and more of what his character is.”
Which is exactly why Kanellis doesn’t think Trump would make a good commander-in-chief. “In my opinion he is a great entertainer, but not presidential,” she said. “I would like to be proud of our leaders and I can’t be proud of a leader like that.”
So how has Kanellis fared since getting fired from “The Celebrity Apprentice” six years ago? The 34-year-old wrestler continues to work for TNA Wrestling and now manages her husband, fellow TNA star Mike Bennett, whom she married two years ago. Additionally, she’s gone back to school to get her bachelor’s degree in sports entertainment and event management from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, and is applying to graduate schools to continue her education.