Michael Moore Recalls the Time He Was Outsmarted by Trump

Original event: circa 1998. Realization: circa 2016.

The digital presentation for this week’s Variety Inauguration Issue is star-spangled and bathed in a Democratic Hollywood twilight’s last gleaming.

At the top of the page, the cover photo of some of the participants, holding an American flag; followed by a scroll-down headline that reads “Now What? On the Eve of Trump’s Inauguration, Hollywood and the Media Raise Their Voices;” and 18 crisply laid out celebrity Q&A links (the blue-red treatment of each name is a nice touch).


When senior film and media editor Brent Lang talked to Michael Moore, the Democratic Party’s 2016 campaign failings were part of the conversation. So too were the skills of the man who beat Hillary Clinton.

Moore, who famously and accurately predicted Trump’s victory, recalls the time he appeared in 1998 on Roseanne Barr’s short-lived talk show. The other main guest was Trump, who expressed fears to a producer about what Moore might do alongside him on-air:

“The producer said [to me], ‘Is there any way you can help me?’ I said, ‘Oh brother, I’ll go talk to him.’ I walked over, shook his hand — it was very clammy. I don’t honestly remember the size, but it was moist. He said, ‘We don’t have to mix it up out there.’ I said, ‘Why do you assume that about me? I’m from Michigan. We don’t really know you. The only thing that sticks in my head is you were one of the few guys that was on the cover of Playboy.’ He laughed. I said, ‘It’s Roseanne. She’s a comedian. You have nothing to worry about here.'”

“He stayed, and we did the show. And it wasn’t until last year that it hit me: People think he’s stupid — he’s not stupid at all. He played me; he got me to not be myself, to not talk any anti-corporate talk. I thought I was going over to relax him. What he was doing was undoing me so I wouldn’t be Michael Moore. This guy is good.”

Moore was a left-leaning voice of reason during the campaign and continues in that capacity post-Nov. 8. Others participants in the Variety Inauguration Issue include Scott Baio, Bill Maher, Chelsea Handler, Glenn Beck and Van Jones.

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