The Trump Files: When Donald Had to Prove He Was Not the Son of an Orangutan

Mother Jones Illustration/Shuttershock

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on June 23, 2016.

Donald Trump has a well-documented tendency to file lawsuits when someone hurts his feelings. In 2013, the guilty party was Bill Maher, the late-night HBO talk show host known for his liberal leanings and biting commentary.

After Trump had insisted in 2012 that President Barack Obama release his college transcripts and passport records, Maher pushed back on the mogul’s request with a demand of his own: that Trump show proof that he is not “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.” Maher, interviewed on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show, cited the similarity in color between Trump’s coif and an orange orangutan’s fur, as split-screen images of Trump next to the animal were displayed. If Trump complied with the request and proved him wrong, Maher promised he would give Trump $5 million for the charity of his choice. The charities Maher suggested? “Hair Club for Men” or the “Institute for Incorrigible Douchebaggery.”

Trump took the jab personally. He filed a $5 million lawsuit against Maher for breach of contract, alleging that when he provided his birth certificate to Maher proving he is not, in fact, the son of an orangutan, Maher never came up with the $5 million. Alas, the lawsuit didn’t get very far. Trump wound up dropping it, but the threat to Maher remained.

Michael Cohen, an attorney for Trump, insisted that although the suit had been withdrawn temporarily, it could resurface in the future. “The lawsuit was temporarily withdrawn to be amended and refiled at a later date,” Cohen said.

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate