Donald Trump defends RNC in interview: 'I wasn't looking for star power, I was looking for policy'
Donald Trump wasn't impressed with what he saw during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday except for one moment — when Michelle Obama took the stage.
"I thought her delivery was excellent," Trump tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I thought she did a very good job. I liked her speech."
And that's where the compliments ended. Speaking by phone on Tuesday, the Republican candidate tells THR about what lines he's willing to cross during campaigning (is the Monica Lewinsky scandal fair game?), whether Roger Ailes could work with him as a consultant and how he responds to Democrats' sharply highlighting his mocking of a disabled reporter (he's enraged by the renewed accusation).
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But first: What happened to star power at his Republican National Convention? He called his acceptance speech last Thursday in Cleveland a "phenomenal night of television," but didn't go into specifics about who showed up to back him, other than his family. (Demi Lovato, Paul Simon, Sarah Silverman and Eva Longoria were guest speakers Monday night at the Philadelphia event.)
The candidate now claims that bringing "showbiz" to a convention, as he said he wanted to do in April, is beside the point. He wanted substance to be showcased last week. "I think we had, if you include my children and the great success that they had, I would say we had tremendous star power," Trump says. "But I wasn't looking for star power, I was looking for policy. I was looking for hope for people because people are not feeling good about where the country is and where it's going."
Trump is now set on parrying Hillary Clinton's political attacks throughout the the convention this week. And, given Trump's willingness to dredge up dirt during the primaries to tar his opponents, the candidate was asked by THR whether he could invoke Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal as an attack on Hillary Clinton.
"Sure, there is a line we won't go, but I'm basing my lines off what they're doing," Trump says. "But there would be absolutely a line that I would not cross."
Democrats claim Trump has long ago crossed those lines. And on Monday night the party underscored what perhaps was the candidate's most controversial recent comments, playing a compilation video of his mockery of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a muscular disorder, and then introducing a disability rights advocate, Anastasia Somoza, to speak onstage.
"I would never mock a person with disabilities. I would never, ever do that," reiterates Trump, who became fired up about the topic on the phone. "I imitated a man groveling because he tried to disavow his article."
The incident in question happened during a rally last November in Sarasota, Florida when Trump spoke about a story written after the World Trade Center attack in which it was reported a number of Muslims were openly celebrating the destruction of the towers. Trump used the article as talking points on the campaign trail. The author, Kovaleski, has since said reports of celebrations were never confirmed. Trump in November appeared to be making jerking motions while discussing the comment by the reporter with a muscular disorder.
"I don't know him, and I have a great memory, and I don't know what he looked like," Trump says now. "So when I made the expression of a man groveling, I had no idea what he looked like. I had no idea he was disabled. If I thought he was disabled, I would have never done that. So that commercial [video shown at the DNC] is a total lie."
During the interview with THR, the GOP candidate also addressed a point of speculation in media circles about Ailes. Would he consider having the recently resigned Fox News chief, who stepped down after sexual harassment allegations surfaced, as a consultant on his campaign?
The billionaire businessman says the topic of Ailes working for his campaign has yet to be "broached."
"You know, Roger's been a friend of mine for a long time and he's done an incredible job ... but nobody has actually — Roger has never mentioned it to me at all," Trump says. "I would think about it. We have a great team. We have a great campaign going. But Roger is a very capable guy and he's a friend of mine."
Speaking about his campaign, the candidate also addressed frequent criticism by artists that he's playing their music without the proper rights (At the RNC, for instance, he appeared on stage as a silhouette as Queen's "We Are the Champions" played in the background.)
Trump says that "both sides" have upset artists by using their music, but he has done nothing wrong. (Queen and The Rolling Stones said Trump used their music without permission during the RNC.)
"I do know you can buy a right to use music if you pay a fee and I know we have bought the rights to the things we use," Trump says. "I have heard on both sides that some people have complaints, but I do not know of the particulars, however."
The Republican businessman did make it clear that he intends to enact favorable policies for the entertainment industry if he becomes president, indicating that Hollywood has been good to him.
"I do know the industry and I do know the industry in many different ways," Trump says. "And as you know the industry is moving to different countries where they're given different tax breaks, financing breaks. And I feel strong about keeping as much production in Hollywood and Los Angeles and in our country as possible. I am all for that, and I feel that I would have a big impact on it."
Trump, who credits his appeal to voters largely on his personal showmanship (and frequent social media activity), once again credited his experience during his Apprentice days as serving him well throughout the long election season.
"I've had the good fortune to be successful in so many different ways," Trump says. "That was certainly a good experience for me and I learned a lot about the world of show business from doing the Apprentice."