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The Donald Trump Conversation: Murdoch, Ailes, NBC and the Rush of Being TV’s “Ratings Machine”

In his first magazine cover interview and photo shoot as the leading Republican, the reality TV presidential candidate lets loose on Hillary's email scandal ("Watergate on steroids"), Bill Cosby ("Was he drunk?"), whether he'll go on Megyn Kelly's show, why he won't accept vice president, Melania as first lady, and if he even needs Fox News and the haters.

A version of story first appeared in the Aug. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

I’m sitting in the reception area of Donald Trump‘s offices on the 26th floor of Trump Tower in New York when an assistant comes to fetch me: “Mr. Trump would like to see you,” she says, as if I were a contestant on The Apprentice, the NBC reality series that brought the real estate mogul’s bravado and business savvy to 20 million Americans each week at its peak. She leads me to a vast conference room where cameras click as Trump, 69, signs papers with another man. Standing at attention are two of his children, Ivanka, 33, and Erik, 31, and about a dozen others. The scene has the pomp of historical significance one might associate with the Yalta Conference. Except this agreement being signed is for new Trump hotels in Asia in partnership with a gentleman who, Trump enthuses, is “the richest man” in his country (at press time, the deal was yet to be announced). Pens write with flourish, there is applause. Trump then calls me over: “Janice! You got to see this woman!” he says, motioning to a female dressed in a suit sitting next to the “richest man.” It’s never explained to me whether she is his wife or colleague. I don’t know if she understands what is being said. “Isn’t she beautiful? Beautiful!” he continues as she stands expressionless. “This is your business to know these things,” he says to me, as an editor. “Just look at her!”

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It’s a bit awkward, especially given this is only eight days after his response to Megyn Kelly at the Republican debate on Fox News elicited a firestorm (as moderator, she challenged him on calling Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig” and Arianna Huffington a “dog”). But this is classic Trump: bombastic, hyperbolic, an unabashed appraiser of women’s looks — yet, he will argue, not a misogynist — outrageous and, yes, entertaining. Slightly to my horror, I realize I have a smile on my face the whole time, both out of sheer disbelief in what he is willing to say in front of others, no less a journalist who’s about to interview him, and because he is … fun. The room is energized, bristling, pumped. It’s that same say-anything allure that made 24 million viewers tune in to the Aug. 6 debate. And it’s only 10:30 a.m.

But does star quality make a presidential candidate? Trump’s critics decry this as the end of days, as Hillary Clinton drowns in her email scandal and GOP stalwarts stumble around the new popular kid. In a Fox News poll released Aug. 16, Trump had 25 percent of Republican voters’ support nationwide (more than double his nearest competitor, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, at 12 percent). Every word, every motion, every “Make America Great Again” hat, every insult draws headlines and viewers (“I’m a ratings machine!” he declares to me). I’ll spend two and a half hours with him, and we’ll talk a few days later on the phone. He tells me that many in Hollywood are privately voicing their support for him (he won’t say who except to claim one significant name to me, off the record); that the Hillary email drama is “Watergate on steroids”; that his wife, Melania, 45, will start campaigning for him in late August (her issue if she were first lady would be “women’s health”); and that, above all, he is a serious candidate. He admires Ronald Reagan, and a bust of the late commander in chief in his office is a business award with Trump’s name on it. If the 40th president was “The Great Communicator,” Trump, who rose to prominence not as an actor but by playing himself on TV, is the 21st century version: The Great Entertainer. And right now, it is working.

“He had some very evil tweets, and now they’ve been nice lately,” says Trump of Rupert Murdoch. “I don’t understand it, just like I don’t understand how Roger [Ailes] could have allowed that first [debate] question to be asked.”

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You’re getting a ton of criticism. Does any of it actually ring true?

People say, “He won’t apologize for anything” — well, I was right on illegal immigration. [John] McCain blew it because he’s done a poor job of taking care of the veterans. And then the third element so far, you had Megyn Kelly, and I think you’ve seen what happened with that. I feel quite confident in my position. At the same time, I believe in apologizing. But to apologize for me is very difficult. I definitely would apologize if I were wrong on something.

What was the last thing you apologized for?

It was too many years ago to remember. I have one of the great memories of all time, but it was too long ago.

You and Roger Ailes of Fox News are feuding over Megyn Kelly, or you’re in private negotiations, or you’ve made peace, or you’re upset again. What’s really going on?

Well, he’s a man that I like a lot, he’s been a friend of mine for many years, and he has done an incredible job. We were at war because I felt that [Kelly’s debate question about women] was unfair, and I let him know it. But it’s all fine now. They were tough questions, and I thought inappropriate, but Roger didn’t, and I’ll go with Roger.

Will you ever be on Kelly’s show?

Unlikely, but it could happen. They wanted me to do her show, but I’m not looking to do that. I know it’s good show business, I know it’s good for ratings, but that doesn’t matter. I did Sean Hannity‘s show the other night — it’s the highest-rated show he’s ever had [2.2 million viewers, his highest at 10 p.m.]. And he has been such a gentleman to me. Bill O’Reilly has been so great. He’s a tough cookie, and he’s smart, but he’s been so fair. So I don’t know.

Trump said Kelly (with Chris Wallace) had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her … wherever.”

Do you regret the Rosie O’Donnell “pig” answer?

No. Rosie actually saved me because that was a rough question. So Rosie, finally you saved me. Because the room went wild. Between the laughing and the applause — it really stopped the rest of the question, which was just a continuation of “kill.” That was a question that could have ruined my whole evening.

Do you need Fox News to win the nomination?

I don’t know. It’s a great question. I know that CNN has been wild about the whole Trump thing, whatever that is, and MSNBC has been doing it, and Meet the Press and George Stephanopoulos and Face the Nation — I’ve been doing all of them. I don’t know what has caused this whole thing, but certainly Fox is very important.

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Some of your fans were making death threats to Kelly. What do you think about that?

I’m sure they don’t mean that. I had heard that had happened. But I have gained such respect for the people that like me and respect me and that like my views, it’s incredible.

Ronald Reagan was Hollywood’s first presidential candidate, and many initially thought he was a joke. Now you’re the first reality TV presidential candidate. Do you see parallels?

I hear it so often, the parallels, and if you’d have looked two months ago, three months ago, they were saying, “He’ll never run.” “He’s just having fun,” and “It’s just games,” and “It’s just good for his brand.” My brand! (Laughs.)

A bust of Reagan in Trump’s office is emblazoned with Trump’s name.

You voted for Reagan, right?

I did. I was friendly with him.

Is he your model?

No, he’s not a model. I didn’t like NAFTA [NAFTA was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993, but Reagan first proposed a “North American accord” in a 1979 speech, and a precursor to NAFTA was signed by the U.S. and Canada in 1988.], I didn’t like some of the economic policies. But he was a man that I respected and liked, and he liked me.

But he also could broach moderates, conservatives, Democrats.

He did. Well, he was a Democrat with a liberal bent as a younger man. And then he became a conservative Republican. He had a great way about him. A great sense of dignity. And he was a wonderful father for the country in a sense. He had a great feel for what the country represents.

When you and NBC severed ties earlier in the summer, did that impact its coverage of you?

The primary tension I had was that they wanted me to do The Apprentice, and they were very angry that I didn’t do it. And that was more important than Miss Universe by far because The Apprentice has higher numbers. I read a story two weeks ago from somebody that didn’t understand, where they said NBC cut ties with Trump. They didn’t cut ties with me, I cut ties with them out of respect. But they were very upset. The top people from Comcast, [NBCUniversal CEO] Steve Burke and [NBC reality chief] Paul Telegdy came up to see me two months before I announced I was running, and they wanted me to do another two seasons of The Apprentice. [Executive producer] Mark Burnett would call me constantly. I love Mark, special guy, and he said, “Donald, you’re turning down a primetime renewal. Do you know what you’re doing?” I said, “Mark, I want to [run for president].”

Flanked by Burnett (left) and Jeff Zucker before the 2004 premiere of ‘The Apprentice.’

But that was before your remarks on Mexicans and illegal immigration.

Well, yeah, that was before.

Those comments have drawn a firestorm of criticism.

As Rush Limbaugh said, “Trump received more incoming [criticism] than any human being I’ve ever seen, and what did he do? He doubled down.” [Limbaugh] said any human being would have dropped to their knees and apologized to the world, but I didn’t say anything wrong. For one week, it was brutal. Macy’s choked [announcing it would phase out his line of suits, shirts and ties]. It wasn’t a big deal, selling ties, but still, [CEO] Terry Lundgren choked and said, “Oh, we’re going to have pickets in front of the store!” I said, “So what? So you have an hour of pickets, and then they’re going to go and have lunch and everyone’s going to be happy.” I said do whatever you have to do. But that was very disloyal.

Do you not talk to him now?

Terry Lundgren was a friend of mine, and I found him to be very disloyal. No, I don’t talk to him. I won’t talk to him. ‘Cause it’s so ridiculous. ESPN canceled their golf tournament [at Trump National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes near Los Angeles]. They made a big deal. “ESPN is breaking off ties.” You know what it was? It was a golf tournament.

Did you have any moment of doubt during that time?

It wasn’t a pleasant period. I was getting inundated. And then it turned out that I was right because I was talking about illegal immigration. And then beautiful Kate [Steinle] was killed in San Francisco [by an illegal immigrant]. And all of a sudden, everybody is saying that I’m right. And people in [the news] industry were calling me and saying, “I want to apologize, I did a story that first week, but you were right.” I said, “Will you say that on the record?” They said, “Do we have to?” They don’t want to do that. I understand it. But I was apologized to by everybody.

Your comments about women have been called sexist. How do you expect to win the female vote?

So my daughter Ivanka, who is a terrific person, she came to me and she said, “You care so much about women, and you care so much about the whole thing with women’s health issues,” which is such an important issue to me. And she said, “You are really misunderstood, and you have to get the word out.” And in the last week, I’ve been putting the word out. Melania told me that, and Ivanka told me that. And [Jeb] Bush came out [Aug. 4 at a Southern Baptist Convention event in Nashville] and said he didn’t want to fund women’s health, and then he went back and he said he made a mistake by saying it. That’s not a mistake, that’s stupidity.

On abortion, do you think you can get the women’s vote if you align yourself with the GOP platform?

You know, many women are pro-life. It’s actually a 50-50 number right down the middle. It’s actually 52, 53 percent in favor of pro-life. It’s actually going the way toward pro-life. A lot of people don’t know that. [A May Gallup Poll said 46 percent of women are pro-life.] So I think that probably in terms of votes, it’s a neutral. … With pro-life it’s actually trending toward more and more pro-life, I think it’s up to 54 percent.

With friend Sarah Palin in 2010.

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If you changed your position, you might have a radical shift in your support from both sides.

Don’t forget, when I was asked the first time [in 1999, he said he was “very pro-choice”], I was a real estate developer, and that was not a question that people went around asking you. And I actually said that the concept of abortion was always a tough concept for most people. Those Planned Parenthood videos that came out recently are terrible. It was also the cavalier way that they spoke about it. They didn’t exactly have great representatives on the other side. We’ll talk about those issues in six months.

People think you’re rigid and imperious. Can you be flexible?

To be a great dealmaker, you have to be flexible. There’s no great dealmaker I’ve ever seen who’s rigid. You have to go with the punches a little bit. And if you don’t, it’s going to be a long day on Sunday.

You say you would have liked the states, rather than the Supreme Court, to decide on gay marriage. Have you been to a gay wedding?

Yes, I have. [Broadway theater owner] Jordan Roth. You know Jordan, right? Great guy.

So is this a dead issue for the GOP at this point?

Some people have hopes of passing amendments, but it’s not going to happen. Congress can’t pass simple things, let alone that. So anybody that’s making that an issue is doing it for political reasons. The Supreme Court ruled on it.

Murdoch (left) and then-wife Wendi Deng flank Trump and wife Melania after the 2004 Oscars.

And now we have Caitlyn Jenner and transgender politics; things have moved fast.

How did that show do? Somebody said it was going badly.

I Am Cait started out strong on E!, fell sharply the second week and fell again in the third.

I’m not surprised at the ratings. I just think it wouldn’t interest you. I knew him a little bit when Bruce was a great athlete. He was one of the best-looking people you’ll ever see.

Rupert Murdoch has made a lot of money off of you. You’ve probably been on the New York Post cover more than anyone. But he tweeted you’re “embarrassing,” and one of his papers said you were a “catastrophe.” What’s your relationship now?

I don’t know. We have been friendly. I wouldn’t say friends, but we’ve been friendly. But he had some very evil tweets, and now they’ve been nice lately. I don’t understand it, just like I don’t understand how Roger could have allowed that first [debate] question to be asked. So I have really no answer for it. I think he views me not as a politician but as a great businessman. I’ve got a net worth of more than $10 billion.

He probably thinks, like many, that you’re just doing this for the attention.

I think so. Now what I’ve heard is he is very impressed with what I’m saying. He is certainly very impressed with my poll numbers. When he looked at the ratings, what happened to the ratings at Fox [News], I think that makes him think about it even from a financial standpoint.

If you see him at a party, what will you say?

I’ve always had a great relationship with him. I had lunch with him three weeks ago.

Trump could force Ailes (right) to make a choice.

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Do you have a relationship with James and Lachlan Murdoch?

A little bit. I like them, they like me. They’re good guys. I think they’re very worthy and that they’ll do well.

Will they have influence over Fox News? Or is it really Ailes’ show?

I’ve never known. I could understand why it might be because Roger’s done such a good job. But I can’t believe that the Murdoch family wouldn’t have certain influence, frankly. Historically, when there’s a big-percentage owner, that has influence.

What media do you consume?

Matt Drudge is an amazing guy. Politically, one of the legends. He’s been so fair to me; he doesn’t want anything for himself. Then in the morning, I read The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post. In print — I generally like paper.

Surrounded by children, some of whom he offered helicopter rides, Trump talked to the media before attending the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 15.

Maureen Dowd’s recent column on you was pretty funny. Did you like it?

I did. You have to understand Maureen — she’s a great person, she’s written a lot about me over the years. She did a big favor. She understands that I adore women. In a positive sense. I cherish women. Women are very important to me. I will take care of women and women’s health issues if I get in.

Did you hear from Heidi Klum after the comment about her not being a “10” anymore?

No, I haven’t. I mean, I know her, but I haven’t.

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Do you feel like you can be someone who talks about women’s looks and not be sexist?

First of all, this was all done years ago. This was taken off the Howard Stern show. When you’re with Howard, you’re talking. I never intended to be running for president. You’re talking, you’re having fun, you’re a big real estate developer and a big businessman and what you say doesn’t matter. Yet of course what I say is nothing compared to what some other people say, including Megyn Kelly — you heard about that? That came out last week. [Kelly discussed her sex life on the show in 2010.] That’s where Maureen got that. I didn’t tell this to Maureen. She even got the Heidi Klum from Howard. So it makes more sense when you hear it that way. And the thing with Halle Berry, that’s all Howard.

You just got drawn into this stuff?

Well, you do. It’s always very dangerous to do Howard because you’re all having a great time and you’re laughing and you get 19 calls from reporters saying, “Is it true that you said this?” But in those days, there weren’t any calls because I was a real estate guy and nobody cared. They cared, but it was open season. Today I wouldn’t say that. But I thought [Dowd’s] column was terrific because basically what she did is she let people know that I will be really good to women.

When will you get Melania out there talking about you?

Pretty soon. She wants to do it. She is a very confident person. You’ve seen her on The View, and you’ve seen her on different shows. Larry King. You’ve seen her being interviewed. She’s got a great style, and she would be an amazing first lady with heart.

Trump with his family at his June 16 announcement that he would run for president.

Michelle Obama cares about childhood obesity. What would Melania care about as first lady?

She would care very much about women’s issues. We’re talking about mostly medical issues but women’s issues. She was very strong on that with me the other day. Ivanka and Melania said, “You’re not getting fairly treated on your feeling toward women.” My mother was this incredible woman. I have known incredible women. I have many women executives, frankly, that are better than my men executives. I pay them the same or more.

Do you believe in legislating equal pay?

Well, it’s a very tough subject. I want women to be paid. But you know when you start tinkering with the free market and you start having mandates put down, it’s a very dangerous subject because we’re competing against the world. We have something happening called corporate inversion. Corporations are leaving the U.S. You know, with minimum wage, it’s wonderful to say everybody should get $5,000 an hour. The problem is, you have companies leaving now. They’re buying companies that are much smaller than them in Ireland and other places [and incorporating there].

This is a huge problem in California.

In California, they got a double whammy. They’re leaving for other states, and they’re also leaving for other countries. They’re literally moving headquarters out of the United States. When you start tinkering with free markets with more and more regulations, you’re forcing people out. Obama doesn’t even know what the inversions are. It takes a real world-class businessperson to understand the subject. I have so many women and, as I said, I pay them in many cases more than the men. They’re unbelievable. And that’s the way it should be. You’re a great example. No man is going to take your place. And you make more money than men and other things. And that’s the way it sort of should be.

How do you view Hillary right now?

Hillary has problems far greater than the nomination. If you look at what’s going on with the emails, it’s a fraud if you think about it. This looks like Watergate on steroids, frankly. Watergate was about the cover-up more than the act. This isn’t something we’re going to solve tomorrow. This could go on for years. You can’t have a nominee who is under investigation. What are they going to do, run and then two nights before the presidential race she gets indicted? General Petraeus, for doing 5 percent of what she did, his life has been destroyed. And it goes up to 20 years in prison. It’s from one to 20 years for what she did! [It’s unclear what penalty Clinton might face if charged and convicted.]

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Hillary is counting on Hollywood’s financial support. But there are whispers that donors would like another candidate. They like Bernie Sanders but don’t think he’s electable. Can you get some of that Hollywood support?

I’ll get a lot of Hollywood support. I think Hollywood really loves my stance on illegal immigration. Fifty percent of the new driver’s licenses are going to illegal immigrants [so far in 2015 in California]. Can you imagine? Did you hear that? And I’m friendly with so many Hollywood people. They’re calling me and they’re saying, “Donald, I’m a super liberal, I’m voting for you. Do me a favor, don’t tell anybody about it.” [He declined to say who.]

You’re friends with Jeff Zucker. Do you have conversations with him about CNN and its coverage of you?

Jeff is a friend of mine, but if I didn’t get ratings he would not have all Trump all the time. I kid him about it. He wants to do documentaries. I say, “Jeff, I don’t have time.” But when I go on, the meter jumps. He should pay me a fortune, right? They should all pay me for this. I’m doing this for nothing.

Will you go on Brian Williams’ show when he’s on MSNBC?

I wasn’t a fan of Brian Williams. First of all, I think he made a terrible mistake. He handled the situation horribly, and he should have left with dignity and shouldn’t have gone back to work for the same company. For him to go from the parent to the poor sister [network] — and that’s not even the poor sister, that’s the poor baby. He has never treated me well, so I’m not a fan. How is he going to do? I think he’ll do fine. MSNBC is lucky to have him. But if I were in Brian’s shoes, I would never have gone back. I’m sure he doesn’t need the money.

Janice Min, president and chief creative officer of Guggenheim Media’s Entertainment Group, with Trump.

If you’re in this for the long haul, do you have to be more diplomatic in the media?

A little bit. A little more selective, I would say, more than diplomatic. And I’m very capable of doing that.

You’re friends with the WWE’s Vince McMahon. Critics have said your campaign is like pro wrestling — it’s just theatrics.

One of the reasons I tell people about my level of intelligence — like, for instance, I had an uncle, Dr. John Trump, who was at MIT, like totally brilliant, became a professor at MIT — is when you’re a Republican conservative, you have to build up your credentials a little bit. But I can pivot any way. I can be a very elegant, highly refined person, I can be a very politically correct person where I would never ever say anything that’s even slightly over the edge, or I can be who I want to be. It’s very time-consuming to be politically correct. And I don’t have the time. It’s also very boring to be politically correct. Right? You wouldn’t be here if I was totally politically correct.

That’s true.

With Megyn Kelly, I was talking about blood coming out of the eyes, then the nose and the ears because it’s a very common saying. I never even finished the sentence. And then [when many people assumed I meant her menstrual cycle], I said only a deviant would think that. So to be honest, the whole subject was fun. Would you ever see a subject covered like that? Over nothing? On something I never even said.

With the late Joan Rivers, who appeared as an adviser on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ in 2014.

Obviously, the power of your celebrity and brand means something.

If I weren’t a successful person, it wouldn’t work as well. Voters have great confidence in me because I really have been successful. I have an income of over $400 million a year. I don’t need anybody’s money. I was offered $5 million last week by a lobbyist to put in the campaign. I said, “No, I don’t need it.” He said, “What do you mean, ‘I don’t need it?’ ” I said I don’t need it. This is a guy that I know well, a good lobbyist, a tough cookie. He’s not giving to me because he thinks I have the most beautiful hair he’s ever seen. He’s giving to me because when he has one of his companies in trouble or needs something, they want to call me and say, “Hey, Don, how you doing? Remember me?” I don’t need that stuff. Whereas Jeb Bush, with $114 million that he raised [so far this year], and Hillary with the $60 million [CBS News reports she raised $47 million in the campaign’s first quarter] and everyone else with the money they raised, they’re going to be called upon, and they’re going to have to do those things like little puppets. So people do respect that about me. I don’t need it.

It’s like the Bloomberg thing in New York.

It is. We miss Michael. There’s a big difference, you notice? Everyone’s talking about it. Things that you haven’t seen for years, you’re seeing again. It’s very bad.

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Do you think Bloomberg will support you?

I don’t know. He is a friend of mine, he likes me. I saved him on the big project in the Bronx [Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point], which was taking years. It’s been under construction for 25 years, and I got it built in 11 months, got it open [in April]. We are on the opposite side of the spectrum on guns. So for that reason alone perhaps he wouldn’t.

You’re the greatest gift to late-night TV. Who does it the best?

They’re all good, and I’m not insulted. I don’t know if I would have been as good about it 10 or 15 years ago. I think I took myself maybe more seriously in a way.

Are you ready for the Stephen Colbert onslaught? He’s much more political than the others.

He asked me to be on his show, and I haven’t accepted yet, but he wanted me to be on the first show. You don’t know who Stephen Colbert is yet. Is he going to be the man that he was or is he going to be himself? But I think he’ll do well.

Did you feel any satisfaction having the GOP debate trounce Jon Stewart’s last night in the ratings? He asked you to be on it.

I loved it. I have no problem with Jon Stewart. But it’s very interesting, I didn’t do his show. I like Bill Maher, too. Bill Maher has been in a certain way very respectful of me. In fact, a couple of months ago, before the polls started coming out, he said, “He’s not goin’ away.” Because he’s a smart guy. He gets me. He understands me.

You once hosted Saturday Night Live. Would you host as a candidate?

I would. I had a great time. They actually asked me to do it a second time, but I wasn’t able to do it because I was away.

Trump, who is selling hats on his campaign website, made a stop in Laredo, Texas, on July 23 to talk about illegal immigration.

Whose side are you on in Deflategate — Tom Brady or Roger Goodell?

Tom Brady. Tom is an unbelievable guy. He’s a very good friend of mine. I have his number right here someplace. Whatever. Here, look, he just called me. (He holds up a Post-it that says “Tom Brady’s New Cell #.“)

Obama was very critical of Sony Pictures during the hack. How would you have handled that?

Hacking is a big problem. The Sony hack is the least of it. How about 30 million people are being hacked, everybody in government is being hacked, and we’re worried about the St. Louis Cardinals hacking the Houston team? In the meantime, China and/or Russia or both and probably other countries are hacking 30 million people.

You’re in the hotel business. How would you solve Hollywood’s boycott of The Beverly Hills Hotel over the Sultan of Brunei’s ownership?

I don’t think it’s working any longer, is it? If anybody didn’t show up for that hotel for the next 40 years, it would have zero impact on him, so therefore it can’t be a successful event. I respect what they did, but it’s not something that has any impact on him.

The Weinstein Co. has said it won’t rent a suite at your hotel for the Toronto Film Festival. Some people in Hollywood …

I didn’t know that. I thought Harvey Weinstein liked me.

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Democrats in Hollywood might feel nervous about staying in a Trump hotel.

I’m surprised because Harvey Weinstein invited me to his big opening in Radio City Music Hall and gave me the best tickets. So I’m surprised to hear that. But my hotels are doing so well.

Your campaign hasn’t impacted business?


Who’s your favorite actor?

Clint Eastwood is a great actor. I still think the spaghetti Westerns are among the great [movies]. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in particular. I love Robert Duvall. Marlon Brando was fabulous, fabulous when he was on. And some of his interviews were among the great classics because he was almost like, “I don’t care.” Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Gone With the Wind, how can you do better, right? Clark Gable. I love the actors of the past, and I don’t believe we’ll ever be at that level again. It’s probably because of television because you get to know ’em too well.

Any actress you love?

Julia Roberts is terrific, and many others. Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person, too. The problem is I’ll name three or four or five and then the hundred that I know will be insulted, and I don’t mean to insult them.

Any TV shows you like?

I don’t have much time to watch anymore. I’ve really been focused much more on the news shows lately, on Fox and CNN and even MSNBC, which is doing better because they’re covering me all the time.

Would you take away Bill Cosby’s Medal of Honor? Obama says there’s no mechanism in place.

Well, I’m not sure. I think that we have bigger problems in this country.

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Would you like to see the Cosby investigations reopened?

I’ve never been a fan. I had one bad experience with him. I was on Letterman, and he was following me on the show. He said, “Oh, I want to buy you a suit.” It was nice, he bought me a suit. And then he was on [the Today show], and my name was mentioned, and he went absolutely crazy. And I said, “What the hell was that all about?” I was never a fan. His humor was always, like, slow and stupid to me. I never saw it. And then he’s obviously got this stuff. What amazes me is he was so quiet and then you see these depositions. What was he doing? Was he drunk? You see he admitted all this stuff on top of everything else. I think he’s weird. And I never found his humor good at all. Just sit in a chair, talk very slowly? And I say to myself, “What’s this all about?”

The FCC and net neutrality — should the government be regulating Internet speed?

I always like government staying out of business. They’re trying to stay out of business, and it’ll be interesting to see if they do.

Was it the right decision for the FCC to kill Comcast’s bid for Time Warner Cable?

I have so many friends on both sides of that equation, I’d rather not answer.

These campaigns get dirty and ugly. Would you ever use Karl Rove?

No. Is he a friend of yours?

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No, but he’s been a godfather of elections for the GOP.

What happened is Karl Rove in the last cycle spent $436 million, and he didn’t win one race. And on election evening [when he challenged Fox News’ Obama victory prediction], he had a bad night. The result was wrong! I guess you’re using that name as an example. I’ve got a lot of people against me. And in a way, it emboldens me. I don’t like it, but it emboldens me. I mean, Fox has not been nice to me, in my opinion. Not just at the debate. You see some of these pundits get on, and they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’ve been predicting my doom for a year.

If you’re Jeb Bush, how would you compete against Donald Trump?

Jeb is a very nice person, but he is very low energy. And you need a person with great energy, enthusiasm and brainpower to straighten out our country. Our country is a mess in almost every way.

“I’ll get a lot of Hollywood support,” predicts Trump, who was photographed Aug. 14 in his Trump Tower office in New York City. “I think Hollywood really loves my stance on illegal immigration.”

Anyone in the GOP primary race you’d consider as your vice president?

Well, it’s possible, but it’s too early to say. I wouldn’t want to say that now because that would be the kiss of death if you said, “Yeah, I’m competing against someone” — it’s too soon. I respect some of the candidates, not all. I mean, in a certain way, all. It takes real courage to run for president.

Say someone else takes the lead. Would you ever be vice president?

I just don’t think it would be good for them, I don’t think it would be good for me. It’s a great position, a very important position. I just think in that position, perhaps they could do something different than me. And that’s not to minimalize the position.

It’s said you are a germophobe. Will you kiss babies and shake hands on the trail?

I’m not germophobic. I do it. I want to make the country great, I’m going to win, I think I have a very good chance of winning. You probably are starting to feel that, too. I go through and shake hands and do what I have to do, and people like me and I like them. In Iowa, I must have shaken 2,000 hands — and those were only the ones that were next to me.

Are you having fun? It seems that way.

Well, it’s more fun when you’re leading the polls. I might not like it as much if I was mired in 10th place. Leading the polls is more fun than if you’re in 12th place [or], like, Lindsey Graham in 17th place with zero percent and he’s a senator. He’s actually got zero. How do you do that?

Eventually, HBO will do a movie about this election. Who should play you?

Somebody really, really handsome. That’s the only thing that matters. I don’t care if he can act well. He’s got to be really, really good-looking. OK?