Trump Warned Michael Moore Not to Make a Film About Him in 1998 Interview on Roseanne Show

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We continue our conversation with Michael Moore about his interaction with Donald Trump on Roseanne Barr’s talk show in November 1998. Moore had released the film “Roger & Me” nine years earlier. Trump was upset to learn the two would be appearing together and threatened to leave, Moore says. Michael Moore negotiated with Trump, asked him not to leave, and promised not to “go after” him over real estate dealings and charges of racism—and now says he was “played.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you go, Michael Moore, way back with Donald Trump. And in the film, you show this.

MICHAEL MOORE: You mean I personally go way back?

AMY GOODMAN: Yeah.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to 1998, when you appear on Roseanne Barr’s talk show along with Donald Trump.

ROSEANNE BARR: My next guest is kind of the polar—philosophical polar opposite of Donald Trump, I think, but maybe not. We’ll find out. His first film was the classic documentary Roger & Me, which was so great. Please welcome my blue-collar panelist, Michael Moore.

DONALD TRUMP: He’s terrific, I tell you. I loved what he did.

ROSEANNE BARR: He is terrific.

DONALD TRUMP: If I was Roger, I wouldn’t have liked it, but I enjoyed it.

MICHAEL MOORE: Well—

DONALD TRUMP: I hope he never does one on me, though. I would—

AMY GOODMAN: His nightmare begins September 21st, when your film is out, Fahrenheit 11/9. So talk about that moment, at Tavern on the Green, in 1998.

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, Roseanne’s sitcom was over, and, you know, it was one of the most popular shows ever. She had a very working-class, very good—her whole thing back then was really solid, good politically, everything. But the show was over, and ABC decided to give her an afternoon show, talk show. And so she called up and said, would I come on the show? She’s going to—they did it in L.A., but they were going to do a week in New York, at Tavern on the Green in Central Park. And I said, “Sure.”

And I get there, and I didn’t realize Trump was going to be the other guest, which I was very happy about. So, he wasn’t. He didn’t know I was going to be on the show. Two years earlier, we were both booked to be on the old Politically Incorrect. I think back then it was on Comedy Central, before it was on ABC.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Maher’s show.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes, his first show. And when I got there, on Politically Incorrect, and he saw that I was there, he split. He split. They were like now all of a sudden without a guest, a fourth guest on the show. He would not appear anywhere with me, and he did not know I was going to be on Roseanne, and now he’s really upset.

AMY GOODMAN: And you had done Roger & Me already.

MICHAEL MOORE: Now, I had done—yes. This is 10 years after Roger & Me. Almost 10 years. So he knows—

AMY GOODMAN: About General Motors.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes. And I’ve done TV Nation at that time. And I was in the process of starting The Awful Truth, which was the TV Nation when we moved it to another network. So, he decides to leave again. And they ask him to please wait. They come to me, and they say, “Oh, my god, he’s going to leave because of you. We don’t want you to leave. Can you just talk to him? Can you just calm him down or whatever?” And I said, “Sure, sure.”

So I went over to him—and this part isn’t in the movie—but I go over to him, I shake his hand. It’s all clammy, and I don’t know why he’s all nervous about me. And I said, “They said you’re thinking of leaving.” “Well, I don’t want to like go up there on the show—I don’t want to go out and mix it up and, you know.” I said, “This is an afternoon talk show. It’s Roseanne. It’s comedy. Just relax. Don’t leave.” And essentially, I kind of promised him not to go after his—by that point, his various real estate dealings, what he was—how he was treating the workers, the Central Park Five, discriminating against—I think out of the thousands of apartments they had out in their so-called middle-class housing in the boroughs, seven were rented to black families.

And to get him not to leave, I sort of promise him. And then, so he does the show. And you’ll see, when you see the movie, I joke around a little, but I don’t go after him.

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re the reason he’s president today?

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I’m just saying, I didn’t realize 'til later, especially until when he was running and I was watching his performance art, I thought, “Wow, this guy is good.” When he talks about the art of the deal—he was playing me. He was negotiating the moment so he would be left alone by this documentary filmmaker who goes after corporate CEOs. And I thought, “Man, like, so this is how he's gotten this far.” If he was no good at this, if he was just a charlatan, he wouldn’t have lasted this long in New York City. He really knew how to play it and to play people.

And so, when I look at that now, I just think, even though I’m 20 years younger there—and I know you want to say, “I couldn’t tell” I just, all these years later, I’m thinking, “Wow, you know, you never back down, Mike,”—I’m saying to myself—”and you backed down.” Mainly because I felt bad for Roseanne so that her show wouldn’t be ruined that day.

Now, here we are in 2018. I don’t feel bad about Roseanne at all. She’s totally gone off the cliff. You know, when I see the two of them together on the show, they’re the enemy at that point—now—and what do you call the opposite of hindsight? Present sight, future sight? Wherever we’re at now, we know what the score is.

AMY GOODMAN: Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. He’s out with a new one today, Fahrenheit 11/9. We’ll be back with him in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Demagogue,” performed by Lila Downs here in our Democracy Now! studios. To see her perform the whole song, as well as the interview, go to democracynow.org.

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