Back when Letterman was still hosting The Late Show in New York City, Trump was a frequent guest, so the two aren’t strangers. Letterman retired from the talk show in May 2015 — leaving his desk and chair to Stephen Colbert and at the same time as Trump’s presidential campaign was ramping up — so he never really had the opportunity to share his thoughts on the media mogul’s White House run.
Making up for that lost time, Letterman was very candid with The New York Times in a recent interview, calling Trump “a damaged human being” and saying his reluctance to apologize about anything makes him a “person to be shunned.”
“I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time, and I always thought he was exactly what New York City needed to have: the big, blowhard billionaire,” said Letterman. “‘By God, I’m Donald Trump and I date models and I put up buildings, and everything is gold.’ Nobody took him seriously, and people loved him when he would come on the show. I would make fun of his hair, I would call him a slumlord, I would make fun of his ties. And he could just take a punch like nothing. He was the perfect guest.”
He may be able to take punches, but what particularly upsets Letterman is how Trump doles out his own bullying.
“Right out of the box, he goes after immigrants and how they’re drug dealers and they’re rapists. And everybody swallows hard. And they think, oh, well, somebody’ll take him aside and say, ‘Don, don’t do that.’ But it didn’t happen,” Letterman said. “And then, I can remember him doing an impression, behind a podium, of a reporter for The New York Times who has a congenital disorder. And then I thought, if this was somebody else — if this was a member of your family or a next-door neighbour, a guy at work — you would immediately distance yourself from that person.”
He makes the bold claim that if he still had a show, he would not shy away from targeting him and his behaviour — like many people thought late-show host Jimmy Fallon did a few weeks ago when Trump was a guest.
“I would have gone right after him,” said Letterman. “I would have said something like, ‘Hey, nice to see you. Now, let me ask you: What gives you the right to make fun of a human who is less fortunate, physically, than you are?’ And maybe that’s where it would have ended, because I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t know anything about trade agreements. I don’t know anything about China devaluing the yuan. But if you see somebody who’s not behaving like any other human you’ve known, that means something. They need an appointment with a psychiatrist. They need a diagnosis and they need a prescription.”
The now-bearded Letterman is still noticeably absent from TV, but has appeared as himself in multiple skits on comedy show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. He’s also going to star in upcoming documentary The Industrial Musicals Movie, which is filming now and expected for release in 2018.