When I came so close to asking Trump the not-so-subtle question

I was doing one of those back-to-work chores – clearing holiday photos from my iPhone storage – when I came across a stack of shots that had completely slipped my mind, and brought memories flooding back of my sojourn in New York at the start of the summer.

There were selfies at Trump Tower, in front of Trump Plaza, by the Trump Cafe, outside the Trump Store; there was a short video of a sleek black GM 4X4 gliding through the streets of Manhattan in a cavalcade; there were a couple of shots of me posing with New York newspaper headlines screaming “Trump outrage on Orlando victims”.

June was my Trump-hunting season. My self-appointed mission while in New York City was simple: to track down and confront the bombastic presidential hopeful, and ask him one simple question: “Mr Trump, have you stopped hating Muslims?”


Not very subtle. Just as on the theme of “when did you stop beating your wife?” any answer to my question would have been globally newsworthy. If he responded in the positive, my headline would be “Trump admits he hated Muslims”. If negative, a straightforward “Trump hates Muslims”.

But how to get the question across to him? Obviously the best way would be via a face-to-face interview, and I set about trying to arrange that through the campaign media team. Many emails went unanswered until one finally got a response from a senior Trump flak: “Call round to Trump Tower and we’ll talk about it”.

OK, now I was getting somewhere. So I headed hopefully up Fifth Avenue one sunny day, into The Donald’s lair. I handed over my business card to security and bluffed that I had an appointment with the Trump PR man. After a quick phone call, security told me curtly: “He’s in Ohio. Come back tomorrow.”

So I returned the next day, and the day after, and the day after that. It appeared my man was still in Ohio. (It turned out later that he had been fired after a fallout with the irascible Trump, and that my efforts had probably been futile all along.)

However, I had one last opportunity. The next day was June 14, Trump’s 70th birthday. The New York press reported he was going at attend a reception at Trump Tower that evening. If only I could get into that, I might have a chance to deliver my killer question.

Security was tight at the glass and faux marble building. The security man I’d seen every day for the past week was looking harassed, checking invitations, turning some people away, letting others in. I can only assume that because he’d seen so much of me that he thought I was with the Trump entourage, and he waved me through.

There I was, disbelieving, glass of bubbly in hand, a few yards away from the orange-headed one. But he was surrounded by bodyguards and hangers-on, there was a hubbub of noise, and I would have to deliver a pretty impressive shout to get my question across. And the chances of getting an answer from him on such an occasion were slim to zero, I calculated.

It didn’t matter. I never got the opportunity to deliver my question. In a flash, and to the surprise of everybody in the room, the candidate was whisked away to a motorised cavalcade, and off down West 56th Street. (That was my video.)

I headed back down Madison Ave, mission unaccomplished. But at least I’d raised a glass with the presidential candidate on his birthday.

fkane@thenational.ae

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