It’s hard to say which dude comes off as more puerile, shameless and creepy—the shock jock (because, after all, that was his job) or the future president of the United States.
Howard Stern’s new book, Howard Stern Comes Again—a compendium of his favorite radio interviews with celebrities, accompanied by his less than Talmudic commentary—documents his two indecorous decades as Donald Trump’s enabler and political cheerleader who, along with NBC’s former chief executive Jeff Zucker (the instigator of The Apprentice), helped the publicity-hungry real estate, branding and bankruptcy impresario position himself to run for high office.
“Now here he is sitting in the Oval Office and flying around on Air Force One,” Stern writes in the introduction. “Two years into his first term, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. I feel like I’m living in an alternate reality…[B]elieve me, I’m as shocked as you are.”
Indeed, in a chapter expressing regret that he was never able to land an interview with Hillary Clinton, Stern outs himself as diehard Clinton supporter.
“I have been a fan of Hillary for nearly as long as I’ve known Donald,” he writes. “This woman has dedicated her life to public service, and that’s what I look for in a candidate…People would say to me, ‘You’re voting for her because she’s the lesser of two evils.’ I’d say, ‘No, I wanted her as president before I wanted Barack Obama’…I think she would have been a great president.”
Stern describes Trump’s dozens of appearances on his show over the years as simply a “damn fascinating” record of his “slow and steady transformation from a personality to a politician.”
Stern writes: “That’s why I scoured through the archives and included a bunch of my interviews with him. I didn’t do it to make fun of Donald or make him look bad. His metamorphosis is on full display.”
The transformation is encapsulated, Stern writes, by Trump’s response in his final appearance on the show—on Aug. 25, 2015—to Stern’s invitation to rate Megyn Kelly’s sex appeal on a scale of 1 to 10: “Well, in the old days, I wouldn’t have minded answering that question, but today I think I’ll pass.”
In the same interview, Stern asks: “Are you afraid of Joe Biden?”
Trump’s answer: “No. I think Joe Biden would be fun to run against, frankly.”
He may yet get his wish.
The book, meanwhile, includes many of the greatest Donald-Howard hits in the 11 interview excerpts presented under the recurring chapter heading “And Now a Word from Our President…”:
•Trump’s epic on-air squabble over a shared girlfriend with New York Daily News gossip columnist A.J. Benza—an exchange of obscene insults worthy of a grade-school playground.
•His brazen penchant for sexual braggadocio and unnerving tendency to reduce women to their body parts (not exempting his own daughter Ivanka) and his fear of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (“It is my personal Vietnam…I feel like a great and very brave soldier’).
•His naked-in-bed phone chat that also features his future third wife, Slovenian fashion model Melania Knauss, whom Trump misidentifies to Stern as being “from Austria.”
•His initial lukewarm support for George W. Bush’s war in Iraq (“I guess so”) and his later lack of enthusiasm for the military adventure (“this is a terrible mistake…Terrible mistake”).
•And his sadistic weight-shaming of the 1996 Miss Universe, Venezuelan actress Alicia Machado (which later became a 2016 campaign issue when Clinton invoked Machado’s ordeal during their first televised presidential debate).
Disappointingly—or maybe revealingly, since he doesn’t want to make Trump look bad—Stern doesn’t include the 2005 interview in which the future president boasted that as owner of the Miss Universe pageant, he regularly took advantage of the opportunity to ogle naked young women and girls in the dressing room backstage.
“You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good. You know, the dresses. ‘Is everyone okay?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody okay?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so, I sort of get away with things like that”
“Well, I’ll tell you the funniest is that before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” Trump told Stern.
“You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good. You know, the dresses. ‘Is everyone okay?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody okay?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so, I sort of get away with things like that.”
Stern’s follow-up question: “Tell me the first time you had sex with one of the contestants and what that was like. Take us through the whole experience. Please.”
Trump managed to change the subject and avoid answering, but earlier in the interview, quipped smarmily: “You could also say that as the owner of the pageant, it’s your obligation to do that [have sex with contestants].”
Stern argues—not without benefit of hindsight—that Clinton might well have won if she had agreed to submit to an interview on his popular SiriusXM show: “[H]ow many votes did she actually lose by? In Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida—a couple thousand votes here, a couple thousand votes there. SiriusXM has thirty-three million subscribers in America.”
Stern adds: “So why didn’t she [do the interview]? I’ll tell you why. She was afraid. She got tight. She thought it was in the bag, and she thought, ‘I could go talk to Howard and really screw things up.’ She thought it was a gamble. In my mind, the gamble was not coming on the show.
“I was right. Had she done the show, it might’ve changed the election.”