Political journalists have attempted for nearly a year to find genuine policy convictions in presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. They’ve failed. On matters relating to the economy, immigration and beyond, Trump has shifted positions or pushed ideas that defy common sense. “You have to be flexible,” said Trump at a March 3 Fox News debate.
Absent any coherent governing approach, Trump appears propelled by the prospect of spending his days in media interviews. Because that’s pretty much what he has done since the start of his campaign in June 2015. The Erik Wemple Blog has asked the Trump campaign for a tally of all the interviews he has done, and hasn’t received one. That’s perhaps because there’s too much to track. A couple of months back, research firm mediaQuant found that Trump had racked up $2 billion in media attention, a tally that stems only in part from all his interviewing. Consider how Trump handled the day after his clinching the status of presumptive Republican presidential nominee. CNN’s Brian Stelter recapped the media travels in his daily newsletter:
Trump was so busy today, he barely had time to tweet. He called into “Morning Joe” at 6:15, “Today” and “GMA” at 7, “Fox & Friends” at 7:30, and he taped a long-form interview with Wolf Blitzer. He spoke with the NYT, WSJ, Time magazine, and I’m sure I’m missing some others. He taped an interview with Bill O’Reilly. And at 6:30 he talked live with Lester Holt from his Trump Tower office. He told Holt that he wants to raise ~$1 billion for the general, but said “I’m not even sure that’s necessary, because I have a big voice, I go on shows like yours, I explain the truth.” A preview of his “free media” strategy for the fall?
People in cable news, including CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, commonly cite Trump’s interview availability when called upon to defend the outsize media attention that the candidate secures day after day.
Now The Post has come forth with an explanation for all of this behavior. Reporters Marc Fisher and Will Hobson have unearthed a 1991 audio tape of a reporter for People magazine, Sue Carswell, chatting with a “publicist” for Trump who went by the name of “John Miller.” This “John Miller,” as Fisher and Hobson note, speaks with the cadence of Trump; this “John Miller” uses the word “successful” a couple of times; he says of Trump that “when he makes a decision, that will be a very lucky woman.”
“John Miller,” as the Post article notes, was actually Trump masquerading as a publicist for himself. As if we needed more evidence that Trump was a narcissist.
Listen to the audiotape paired with the Fisher-Hobson story. In rhythm, tone and tenor, it’s essentially the same cable-news interview that Trump has done hundreds of times in the past year, only with a focus on his love life. Trump just can’t stop talking about himself. “He made himself available to reporters at nearly any time, for hours on end,” write The Post reporters. Nothing has changed. These days, the voluble Trump gets on the air, and producers blow through commercial breaks to keep the show going.
Of course, when Trump gets to talking, Trump gets to lying. The “John Miller” thing itself was a lie, as Trump later conceded. People magazine wrote, “The John Miller fiasco he called a joke gone awry.” He also conceded in court testimony, “I believe on occasion I used that name,” reported Fisher and Hobson.
Today, Trump stacked another lie on top of the original one. “No, I don’t know anything about it. You’re telling me about it for the first time … It was not me on the phone,” Trump this morning told “Today” co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer when pressed about “John Miller.” For the first time, really? As noted above, People magazine previously confronted Trump about the stunt; it was the building block for this piece.
“When was this, 25 years ago?” asked Trump to his “Today” inquisitors before encouraging a change of topic. “Let’s get on to more current subjects … I think we have more important things to discuss.” For a change, it appears, Donald Trump wasn’t enjoying his media time.