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Last summer billionaire property tycoon burst on to the American presidential race. His campaign has stunned America’s political establishment. In ‘The Mad World of Donald Trump’ reporter Matt Frei hits the Trump campaign trail speaking to the celebrity’s growing army of exuberant supporters, critics and those who have personally dealt with the man behind the brand. Many still think of Donald Trump as a bit of a joke but what does his candidacy and his success tell us about the state of America today?
This is the story of the real Donald Trump, not a story of “rag to riches” but of “riches to riches”. Born in New York 69 years ago his father was the son of German immigrants, his mother was from Scotland. Biographer Tim O’Brien says: “The reality is he had enormous financial advantages from the get-go … His father … Fred Trump … was a very wealthy real estate developer in the outer boroughs of New York” Another biographer, Michael D ’Antonio, reveals how the young Donald was raised to be competitive. His father drummed a mantra into his head: “You’re a killer, you’re a king”. O’Brien says: “It’s a particular view of life that I think Donald has carried forward. He thinks of it as a battle, he thinks of life as winning and losing and endless combat”.
Following graduation from business school the young Trump went into his father’s real estate business and rode the wave of Reaganomics, building property after property in Manhattan and elsewhere – including his iconic Trump Tower, constructed with the help of cheap, illegally employed, Polish immigrants. He’d inherited from his father a flair for publicity and consciously turned himself into an icon of the age of greed.
By the end of the 90’s Trump had secured the Trump brand and began flirting with the presidency. It was only with his leadership of the so-called “birther” campaign that he staked his colours firmly to the mast of hard-line conservatism. Calling for President Obama to produce his birth certificate – footage in the film shows Obama publicly mocking Trump’s attempts to call him out.
2015 and the tycoon hopes to have the last laugh, replacing Obama in the White House. Currently leading the polls in the Republican nomination footage from one rally shows thousands of supporters packing out a stadium to hear him speak. They believe in his promise to “Make America Great Again”. Reporter, Matt Frei says: “What’s amazing is that they are true believers…they genuinely believe that Donald Trump is the guy who is going to save their country and I have to say the last time I saw crowds as enthusiastic as this…was for Barack Obama in 2008.”
Trump’s appeal is simple – he tells it like it is. No political experience? Not a problem, he says I’m a genius at business, qualification enough. The film investigates how good a businessman he really is. Editor of Forbes, Randall Lane, tells how they are locked in dispute with Trump about his true level of wealth for over 30 years. Either way, Trump is fabulously wealthy but that wasn’t always the case. At the end of the 80s he crashed and burned spectacularly, after over-extending himself in the casino industry. At one point Trump himself admitted to being almost a billion dollars in debt – and no less than 4 of his companies have gone bust.
The film also looks at how the businessman has also been embroiled in a number of scandals after making disparaging comments about women. He has previously described one as a “fat pig” another as “extremely unattractive” and most recently caused outrage by accusing Fox News reporter, Megyn Kelly, of having "blood coming out of her wherever" after she challenged him about his remarks on women during a televised debate.
British broadcaster Selina Scott says: “It surprises me that any woman in America can vote for this guy. They must be out of their heads.” She accuses billionaire TV star and presidential hopeful Donald of “stalking me mentally” after she fronted an unflattering hour long profile of the tycoon in 1995. Asked why she says: “Basically … he’d lost control … he realized he couldn’t charm me into portraying him the way he wanted to be portrayed”.
To many Donald Trump is known for his role on the American Apprentice but the documentary reveals how he has transcended celebrity and is now a serious contender for the Republican nomination. This is despite the controversial remarks about women, his plans to ban Muslims from entering America and to build a wall across the Mexican border.
“Matt Frei’s Channel 4 documentary packed a decent punch. It was diligent, damning and hard-hitting when it came to exposing some of the wannabe US President’s many flaws.”
Michael Hogan, The Telegraph
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- Episode Title : The Mad World Of Donald Trump
- Format : 1 x 60'
- Production company : ITN Productions
- Year of production : 2016
- Commissioning channels : Channel 4
- Availability : 01/02/2016