“Suppressed” 1991 Trump Film Released Online by Documentary Producer
By Ben Mathis-Lilley
A somewhat mysterious trailer—narrated by a man with an epic/hammy upper-crust British accent—appeared on YouTube Wednesday advertising a documentary called Trump: What's the Deal? which is said to have been suppressed when it was completed in 1991.
The website associated with the film says it was commissioned in 1988 by mogul (and reputed Trump enemy) Leonard Stern but never released because Trump threatened to sue everyone on Earth who was involved with it. A New York magazine piece about Stern and Trump from 1989 tells a similar story, though I'm not sure it goes so far as to support the verb "suppressed"—more that no broadcasters wanted to deal with the pain in the ass of potential Trump suits (none of which were actually ever filed) over what was seen less as a hard-hitting 60 Minutes exposé than as a kind of dishy tabloid piece. And, as the new site acknowledges, the documentary waspublicly screened in 1991 in the Hamptons by original executive producer Ned Schnurman in a fruitless attempt to find distribution.
(The New York piece, FWIW, is also highly recommended reading for '80s NYC nostalgia fans. And it mentions that Leonard Stern also funded an '80s publication called 7 Days, which was founded by current New York editor-in-chief Adam Moss, who is also the person who hired me, the writer of this Slate blog post, for my first job in magazine journalism more than a decade ago. All these connections—it's like a conspiracy movie, but boring!)
In any case, the finished Trumpumentary has been revived and posted online by Libby Handros, a producer on the original project who says she inherited the footage from her mentor Schnurman when he passed away in 2004. Leonard Stern is still alive, and in 1991 told the Times he did not believe that Ned Schnurman had legal rights to the footage but that he (Stern) was not going to retaliate against "a little guy with no money" for screening it. (Handros says Stern is "definitely not" involved in the online release.)
Here's a Huffington Post piece about the documentary by its original writer, and here's the press release announcing the online debut—it appears that the film covers some allegations, like Trump's connection to Mob-affiliated companies and hisalleged exaggeration of his own wealth, that still figure quite prominently in Trump's public persona. If you'd like to watch it in full, click here. And FYI—the narration for the trailer was recorded by Libby Handros' friend Peter Foges, whose LinkedIn pagesays he was the BBC's New York bureau chief from 1979 to 1984.
Trump! Trump! Trump!