A gossip columnist’s guide to outwitting Trump, ‘a narcissist beyond description’
When Donald Trump became a presidential candidate, Susan Mulcahy got a call from a former colleague at New York Newsday. “You’d better stock up on valium,” the ex-colleague said.
“It’s because I hated him so much,” said Mulcahy, the veteran gossip columnist who covered Trump for years at the New York Post, describing the call. “I would go ballistic if his name was mentioned in the office.”
Trump’s reputation as a liar now precedes him, but this week it reached new heights. In addition to reports that he regularly brags about winning the votes of a majority of American women – he did not – other accounts say that he has begun questioning the authenticity of the Access Hollywood tape in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitals.
It’s an over-the-top falsehood (the hosts of Access Hollywood have reiterated that the tape is authentic) but to Mulcahy, it is just par for the course with Trump. “Most people have an alibi or a backup plan; Trump doesn’t do that,” she told the Guardian. “He just says the exact opposite of what he did five minutes ago.”
No one can argue that Mulcahy didn’t warn them. “He’s a pathological liar. I’ve said that repeatedly and I’ve been saying it since the 80s. He has two sports, golf and lying, and that’s it. He just lies about everything.”
Mulcahy started work at the New York Post’s gossipy Page Six as an assistant in 1978, when she was a college student. A few years later she was a reporter, then editor of the column in 1983. But though she would keep writing a column when she moved over to NY Newsday, she didn’t get into reporting for the love of gossip.
“I wanted to be a writer and newspapers seemed like one place where you could do some writing and make a living,” Mulcahy said.
What she would learn put her on the frontline of the problem reporters everywhere are confronting now in covering Trump – she just had a 30-plus year head start in dealing with it.
Though she covered a lot of over-the-top personalities, even among New York City’s drama-prone elite, Mulcahy said Trump stood out. Specifically, he stood out for the audaciousness and consistency of his lies.
Trump has changed parties and careers and wives, but his estranged relationship with truth is remarkably consistent. “I don’t think it has evolved,” she said. “I don’t think he’s changed much. What you’re seeing now is what you saw 30 years ago.”
In her 1988 book documenting her time at Page Six during a period when Trump’s star was ascendant, Mulcahy devotes half a chapter to the future president’s fondness for falsehoods, be it about anything from his real estate deals to whether he was meeting with Richard Nixon.
“No matter how well wired a gossip columnist is, there are those who will try to snip those wires,” Mulcahy wrote at the time. “Of all the wire cutters I’ve encountered, Donald Trump carries the sharpest instruments.”
Not that she realized he was a liar at first.
“It happened gradually,” she said of the realization. “I wrote about him because he was this oversized figure. New York is a city of great characters and Donald Trump is – I hate to say this – a great character. I covered him but as time went on, I got snarkier.”
And though over time she pared back her coverage of him, to some extent, ignoring Trump was easier said than done.
The particulars of her Trump stories are damning.
After a source tipped her off to a meeting between Trump and Nixon and she called to confirm it, for instance, Trump didn’t just evade the question: he totally denied it. “‘Nope, didn’t have a meeting with Nixon,’” she recalled him saying. “Then,” she added, “Nixon’s office confirmed it.”
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