In March, Real Time host Bill Maher spent most of a show dedicated to a single goal — proving that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was a con man. It made for some enjoyable television, but as for revelations, Maher’s quips — be they serious or jokey — weren’t telling his audience anything they didn’t already know. The boastful New York real-estate mogul has been sullied with this moniker (and many others) since long before he announced his campaign in the summer of 2015. More recently, renewed claims about Trump’s transgressions were dug up by BuzzFeed when the website revisited an old story about how he posed as his own spokesman to spread a false rumor about dating Italian model Carla Bruni in 1991.
The story made quite the viral splash in April, especially since it had unearthed an old People magazine article in which the spokesman — identifying himself as “John Miller” — talked about his boss in a manner all too familiar to anyone who’s ever endured a Trump campaign speech. (Like the statement, “beautiful women call him all the time.”) Yet nothing much was heard about what happened since. Aside from several choice comparisons, there was no proof that Miller was in fact Trump. Or at least there wasn’t until the Washington Post published the entire 14-minute audio recording of the phone interview between
Trump Miller and journalist Sue Carswell.
As Post reporters Marc Fisher and Will Hobson explain, the recording “captures what New York reporters and editors who covered Trump’s early career experienced in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s: calls from Trump’s Manhattan office that resulted in conversations with “John Miller” or “John Barron” — public-relations men who sound precisely like Trump himself — who indeed are Trump.” As evidence, they cite “the journalists [who covered Trump during this time period] and several of Trump’s top aides.”
Not to mention all the other juicy boasts that Miller made, seeing as how he apparently possessed a “rare insight into the private thoughts and feelings of his client.” Private things like Trump’s easygoing personality (“He’s a good guy, and he’s not going to hurt anybody…. He treated his wife well and… he will treat Marla well”) to outright bagging (“Actresses just call to see if they can go out with him and things”).
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) May 13, 2016
As the Post‘s story gained steam Friday morning, Trump himself (not Miller) put in a call to Today to discuss the matter. Co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer pointed out to the presidential candidate that, per the recording, Miller’s voice sounded very much like his own. Trump, unsurprisingly, disagreed with the assertion and turned the blame onto the “many people” who are trying to imitate him for personal gain:
“No, I don’t know anything about it. You’re telling me about it for the first time and it doesn’t sound like my voice at all. I have many, many people that are trying to imitate my voice and you can imagine that. This sounds like one of these scams, one of the many scams. It doesn’t sound like me.”
Despite these denials, Guthrie and Lauer kept pushing Trump for more comments on the matter. Guthrie specifically brought up the Miller and Barron names, and the journalists and former aides who’d previously attested to the fact that they were in fact Trump himself. Even still, the 69-year-old White House hopeful stood his ground:
“It was not me on the phone. And it doesn’t sound like me on the phone, I will tell you that. It was not me on the phone… Let’s go on to more current subjects.”
Meanwhile, Twitter caught on to the Miller name and unleashed its full fury onto the front-running Republican.