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Aide says audio tape didn’t sound like Trump posing as own spokesman

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A top aide to Donald Trump said on Sunday he did not believe a report that the billionaire once posed as his own spokesman to brag about his personal life to a celebrity magazine.

The Washington Post released an audio recording on Friday of a man who identified himself as Trump’s publicist, “John Miller,” and talked about the billionaire’s romantic encounters during a conversation with a People Magazine reporter in 1991.

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After listening to the tape while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” show, senior Trump adviser Paul Manafort said he did not believe it was the Republican frontrunner’s voice.

“I could barely understand it,” Manafort said. “I couldn’t tell who it is. Donald Trump says it’s not him, I believe it’s not him.”

Trump told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday that the voice was not his, although he has admitted in years past to using at least one pseudonym to speak to reporters.

The original People Magazine article that ran in 1991 winkingly described Miller as “a mysterious PR man who sounds just like Donald.”

Within a few days of that article, Sue Carswell, the People reporter who originally made the recording, reported that Trump had admitted that he posed as Miller as a joke and had apologized for it.

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Trump effectively locked up his party’s nomination earlier this month to run in the November 8 presidential election and has been working to try to unify the Republican Party behind him.

The recording quickly rippled through American media and on Saturday the popular comedy program Saturday Night Live, satirized the recording, having an actor posing as Trump calling reporters pretending to be his own spokesman.

Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s allies have described Trump as “deceptive” and homed in on his treatment of women. Clinton has begun attacking Trump more aggressively since he secured the nomination, deriding his character and recently suggesting that he’s hiding something by not releasing his tax returns.

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The recording featured some phrases and speech patterns that are commonly used by Trump, including saying “he’s starting to do tremendously well financially” and use of the word “frankly,” which Manafort dismissed as likely to be adopted by people who work for him.

“The justification for the tape is … words that are on that tape are words that Donald Trump uses,” Manafort said. “I have been working for Donald Trump for six weeks. I’m using words he uses.”

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Trump’s willingness to pose as a fake spokesman was first reported in 1990, when he testified under oath as part of a lawsuit that he had used the pseudonym John Baron, sometimes rendered in news reports as John Barron, when speaking to journalists by telephone.

“Lots of people use pen names,” Newsday quoted him as saying after his testimony. “Ernest Hemingway used one.”

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Alan Crosby)

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Elections 2016

Vietnamese women strive to clear war-era mines

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Inching across a field littered with Vietnam war-era bombs, Ngoc leads an all-women demining team clearing unexploded ordnance that has killed tens of thousands of people -- including her uncle.

"He died in an explosion. I was haunted by memories of him," Le Thi Bich Ngoc tells AFP as she oversees the controlled detonation of a cluster bomb found in a sealed-off site in central Quang Tri province.

More than 6.1 million hectares of land in Vietnam remain blanketed by unexploded munitions -- mainly dropped by US bombers -- decades after the war ended in 1975.

At least 40,000 Vietnamese have since died in related accidents. Victims are often farmers who accidentally trigger explosions, people salvaging scrap metal, or children who mistake bomblets for toys.

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Elections 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts issues New Year’s Eve warning to stand up for democracy

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In a progressive welcoming move, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his New Year's Eve annual report urging his fellow federal judges to stand up for democracy.

"In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," he wrote. "We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability."

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Trump’s next 100 days will dictate whether he can be re-elected or not — here’s why

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According to CNN pollster-in-residence Harry Enten, Donald Trump's next 100 days -- which could include an impeachment trial in the Senate -- will hold the key to whether he will remain president in 2020.

As Eten explains in a column for CNN, "His [Trump's] approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success. But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins."

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