Trump Time Capsule #135: Howard Stern Tapes

Howard Stern, with sidekick Jackie Martling, in the late 1990s, when Donald Trump was a frequent guest on his raunchy show. (Peter Morgan / Reuters)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Some recordings of Donald Trump’s appearances on the Howard Stern show from the 1990s onward are already famous. That is where Trump said in 2002 “I guess so” when Stern asked if invading Iraq was a good idea. It’s also where Trump said that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases had been “my own personal Vietnam,” that Miss Universe Alicia Machado was “an eating machine,” and so on.

Now Andrew Kaczynski, who wrote about many of these recordings while at BuzzFeed, and colleagues Chris Massie and Nate McDermott at his new home of CNN, have put together a collection of additional Trump-Stern interviews. They’re quite something, starting with numerous lascivious Trump comments about his daughter Ivanka. (For instance: “Can I say this? A piece of ass,” Stern asks about Ivanka. “Yeah,” her father replies.)

Here’s the significant point about this collection—actually, two. The first is that concentrating them in one place has surprising power. Look through, and you’ll see what I mean. The second bears on Trump’s claim in his “apology” video last night that “these words [“grab by the pussy” etc] don’t reflect who I am.” In fact, the evidence suggests that they reflect exactly who he is.

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Bonus reading:  Virginia Heffernan has a wonderful essay in Politico about how Howard Stern knew just what he was doing in these interviews with Trump, and how he lured, goaded, and especially flattered him into what Stern knew would be outrageous statements. When reading this, I could not help thinking of the way Vladimir Putin has also, through flattery, expertly played Trump.

Also, a reader points out a connection I missed. Trump’s initial excuse for “I can do anything I want” is that it was “locker-room” talk—something just between the guys. But the reader points out that as recently as installment #126, I had reported on a very public case of Trump behaving in almost as vulgar a way, to which I was an indirect witness myself. I’d already lost track of that, in the fog of war.

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For the time-capsule record I need to point out: No, nothing like this has ever happened before. Also: still Paul Ryan is saying, even as other Republicans bail out: He’s fine! Vote for Trump!