The Trump Files: Donald Attacks a Reporter Who Questioned His Claim to Own the Empire State Building

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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 October 17, 2016.

If there’s one thing Donald Trump really doesn’t like, it’s being called out. British journalist Selina Scott found that out the hard way when she challenged his false claim that he wholly owned the Empire State Building.

In 1995, Scott interviewed Trump for a British television documentary. Scott and her producer, Ted Brocklebank, used the song “It Ain’t Necessarily So” in the background of the film to highlight how Trump’s claims “‘didn’t stand up,'” Brocklebank told journalist Michael D’Antonio in his book The Truth About Trump.  

One of those claims occurred during a helicopter ride over Manhattan. Scott wrote in the Daily Mail early this year that Trump boasted that he was the sole owner of the Empire State Building, a declaration that Scott immediately challenged. He later said he owned 80 percent of the building, then admitted to owning just 50 percent of it. Scott reported Trump’s false claims in her film.

Trump wasn’t happy, and he took his revenge on Scott, sending her letters calling her “‘very sleazy,’ ‘unattractive,’ ‘obnoxious,’ and ‘boring,'” D’Antonio writes.

The mogul continued:

Selina, you have little talent and, from what I have seen, even fewer viewers. You are no longer ‘hot’; perhaps that is the curse of dishonesty. You would, obviously, go to any lengths to try to restore your faded image, but guess what—the public is aware and apparently much brighter than you. They aren’t tuning in! I hope you are able to solve your problems before it is too late.

Scott also wrote in the Daily Mail that Trump’s insults continued for years. In just one example, Scott said he sent her a clip of a story about his net worth with the message, “‘Selina you are a major loser.'”

In 2009, the 14-year feud with Scott took another turn. When Trump wanted to build his Scottish golf course in Aberdeen, members of the local council who were deciding whether to allow Trump to build on protected land received a copy of the mogul’s 1995 interview with Scott, according to the Guardian. When Trump found out that the council had seen the video, he lashed out at Scott, who said she wasn’t involved in the film’s distribution to the council. He called her a “third-class journalist” and said her interview with him was “‘a boring story then and she has since faded into obscurity where she belongs.'”

Scott didn’t hesitate in fighting back. In a prescient comment in light of recent revelations, Scott told the BBC last year, “I knew he was an unreconstructed misogynist.”

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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