Trump has long been obsessed with having his face on the cover of magazines, something that happened more and more often as he won early polls, then Republican primaries, then the nomination, then the presidency. Trump keeps stacks of these magazines in his office and jokes that he doesn’t have time to read all of them because there are so many. He has said that he’s like a “supermodel, except, like, times 10.”
With this mind-set, Time’s “Person of the Year” became Trump’s holy grail.
Although the magazine featured Trump — or a melting version of his face — several times on its cover, the magazine passed on naming him “Person of the Year” in 2015. Instead, it selected German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom the magazine credited with opening her nation’s border to hundreds of thousands of refugees and managing Europe's debt crisis.
Trump did not take that news well.
“I told you @TIME Magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite. They picked [the] person who is ruining Germany,” he tweeted soon after the news was announced last December.
He kept going at a rally a week later in Mesa, Ariz.
“I was on their cover four, five weeks ago. They should have picked me for the ‘Person of the Year,’ but they didn’t. No, they should have,” Trump said. “ … I said I’m never going to get it because I’m not establishment. But every panel that I saw on television when Time was — because, you know, it’s sort of cool, even though the magazine’s going down the tubes. No, it’s a cool thing. Most magazines are going down, in all fairness to them. It’s great, isn’t it? To watch these guys go down the tubes? Isn’t it great? I love it.”
Trump briefly said he deserved the honor for sparking a political revolution, then continued: “It’s just like ‘The Apprentice.’ For the first three seasons, I should have gotten the Emmy for the Apprentice. Got the No. 1, got tremendous ratings. It was the hottest thing. And they picked these shows that were establishment — 'Amazing Race.' You fall asleep watching it. Okay? It’s not a race; it’s a sleeping contest. Because I’m not establishment in Hollywood, I’m not establishment politically. So Time magazine picked a woman who is destroying Germany. She let the migration come right into Germany. She’s destroying Germany.”
Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs said that the decision this year was easy. The title goes to a newsmaker who has influenced events for better or for worse, and past recipients have included Charles Lindbergh, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Martin Luther King Jr., the Apollo 8 astronauts, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ted Turner, Newt Gingrich, Amazon's Jeffrey P. Bezos (owner of The Washington Post), Rudy Giuliani, Vladimir Putin, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, three popes and numerous presidents.
This year's finalists included Hillary Clinton, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, singer Beyoncé, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and whistleblowers in Flint, Mich. But Gibbs said Trump was the obvious choice.
“When have we ever seen a single individual who has so defied expectations, broken the rules, violated norms, beaten not one but two political parties on the way to winning an election that he entered with a 100-to-1 odds against him? I don't think that we have ever seen one person, operating in such an unconventional way, have an impact on the events of the year quite like this,” Gibbs said, adding that Trump has been on the cover at least a half-dozen times just this year.
The honor was announced on NBC's “Today” show on Wednesday morning — and Trump was on the phone to talk about it. Trump said he considers this an honor, not a slight, and he took issue with some of the wording on the magazine's cover, labeling the country the “divided states of America.”
“I didn't divide them,” Trump said. “They're divided now. I mean, there's a lot of division, and we're going to put it back together, and we're going to have a country that's very well healed, and we're going to be a great economic force, and we're going to build up our military and safety, and we're going to do a lot of great things, and it's going to be something very special. But to be on the cover of Time magazine as the 'Person of the Year' is a tremendous honor.”