In 1987, Tony Schwartz ghost wrote “The Art of the Deal,” a book that ushered then-real estate mogul President Donald Trump into the national spotlight. Today, Schwartz has few kind words for the man he helped make famous.
“Trump is the same person at 70 that he was at seven,” Schwartz said. “He never managed to develop the qualities that most people do in the natural course of growing up.”
Schwartz spoke about “The Art of the Deal” and his relationship with Trump at a Monday event co-hosted by Yale’s Shabtai Society and the Yale Journalism Initiative in Linsly-Chittenden Hall. Throughout the talk, Schwartz offered psychological explanations for the behavior and actions of the president, whom he described as having “no conscience.” According to Schwartz, Trump grew up with an overbearing and demanding father, which ultimately contributed to his “obsession” with winning in every facet of life.
Schwartz first met Trump when he was working as a reporter for the New York Post. At the time, Trump, a 30-year-old real estate developer, was in the process of kicking tenants out of one of his properties so that he could raise rent prices, and Schwartz covered the story. Schwartz said Trump wrote to him after reading the story, expressing his appreciation for being portrayed as a “tough guy.” According to Schwartz, Trump went so far as to frame the story and hang it on the wall of his office.
Years later, in 1986, Trump suggested that Schwartz write his autobiography, an endeavor Schwartz came to regret.
“I knew that writing a book with him would undermine my credibility and subject me to the legitimate charge of having sold out, a term virtually invented for what I was about to do,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz described the money he makes from “The Art of the Deal” as “blood money.” He said he donated $50,000 in royalties from the book to Puerto Rican hurricane relief efforts the same day as his talk at Yale.
While writing the book, Schwartz said, he “wrestled with how to tell stories that he knew contained inaccuracies.” Although he portrayed Trump as charming in his book, in reality he had begun to view him as a virtual “black hole.”
“What I did successfully regarding ‘The Art of the Deal’ — I’m deeply ashamed to say — was figure out a way to reshape Trump’s bullying, cynicism and one dimensionality into a voice that seemed boyish, brash and charming,” Schwartz said.
In an interview with YTV before his talk, Schwartz said that Trump’s only positive quality is that he is “relentless” when it comes to getting what he wants.
Still, Schwartz said he shared some undesirable qualities with the subject of his most lucrative project.
“I shared some of Trump’s neediness and hunger for affirmation,” he said. “By seeing these qualities in such an exaggerated form in him, I came to know them in myself. In effect, Trump was my shadow.”
Although he feels guilty for facilitating the creation of the Trump cult of personality, Schwartz said writing “The Art of the Deal” “led him down the path that saved [his] life.”
Grant Richardson ‘19, who attended the talk, said it was interesting to hear from someone who spent a significant amount of time with Trump in the early days of his career. However, Richardson said, he felt Schwartz’s statements about the president were biased.
“While at times, I found his argument convincing, the lengths he went to depict Trump as ‘pure evil’ … hurt his credibility in my eyes,” Richardson said.
But Molly Shapiro ‘21 said that while she wasn’t expecting Schwartz to focus so much on the psychological aspects of Trump’s persona, his account of the president’s personality is consistent with how he has handled his position thus far.
The Art of the Deal has been translated into more than a dozen different languages.
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