When President Trump cut himself off as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney coughed during an ABC News interview on Sunday, it highlighted two well-known, if little-seen Trump profiles: Trump the TV producer and Trump the germaphobe.
Here is the full exchange via ABC News:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which financial statement?
TRUMP: Uhh, they’re after my financial statement. Now, they should be after everyone else’s financial statement but, uhh, they are after, the Senate, they’d like to get my financial statement. At some point, I hope they get it—
STEPHANOPOULOS: You going to turn it over?
TRUMP: No, at some point, I might, but at some point I hope they get it because it’s a financ—, it’s a fantastic financial statement. It’s a fantastic financial statement. And let’s do that over, he’s coughing in the middle of my answer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. Okay.
TRUMP: I don’t like that, you know, I don’t like that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your chief of staff.
TRUMP: If you’re going to cough, please leave the room. You just can’t, you just can’t cough. Boy oh boy.
Trump has openly joked about his germaphobia in the past, examples of which you can watch in the video above.
He told Howard Stern in 1993 that he washes his hands “as many times as possible.” He has called shaking hands “terrible” and “barbaric.” He reportedly views coughing as a “sign of weakness.” He made former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci get a penicillin shot aboard Air Force One because of his hoarse voice. And he dismissed unsubstantiated allegations of a 2013 lewd tape by pointing to his germaphobia: “Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way. Believe me.”
What was notable about the exchange that aired Sunday was that it combined two Trump profiles that the public is rarely exposed to, especially in such stark terms.
But while Trump’s reaction to Mulvaney’s cough was perhaps predictable given his germaphobe and producer past, Trump’s germaphobia is not absolute if his past statements are any indication.
“I was in the fourth row and she was sweating and looked beautiful and she threw her hat, right? Now normally if a performer throws a hat and it’s sweaty and wet and everything, I have no interest in it, right?” Trump told Stern about a Britney Spears performance during an interview in 2007. “But I grab that sucker, right? It didn’t bother me. … I wasn’t afraid of those germs.”