Donald Trump has become defined in his presidential campaign by his misogynistic language and a recent downpour of accusations of sexual assault against him. But it’s not exactly a recent phenomenon. One of the defining characteristics of his personal life over the last three decades has been his seemingly insatiable lust for women and a kind of laissez-faire attitude about marital status. He has boasted of courting married women in the same breath as suggesting that because he is a celebrity, he is entitled to kiss women whenever he pleases.
This worldview is not new for Trump; in fact, it took shape almost three decades ago.
During the early months of 1990, Donald Trump was a frequent presence in the tabloids of New York City, often gracing the cover of The New York Post with new details of his ongoing separation from his first wife Ivana.
As he deftly tried to juggle the split while courting Marla Maples—who went on to become his second wife—Trump gave a revealing interview to reporters Esther Pessin and Bill Hoffmann for the February 23, 1990 issue of the Post. In it, he declared that adultery is not a sin and hinted at his own extramarital affair, almost urging the tabloid to reach the obvious conclusion. It colors Trump’s impression of himself in the 90s and onward as a playboy who could have any woman he wanted, no matter their marital status or desire for his attention.
The Post, often friendly to Trump during his current presidential campaign, has not publicized its archives prior to 1998 but The Daily Beast obtained some of the old issues which document Trump’s views at the times.
“Do you think adultery is a sin?” Trump was asked in the February issue.
“Very good question,” he responded. According to the report at the time, Trump paused and then said:
“I don’t think it’s a sin but I don’t think it should be done.”
The reporters pressed: “Would you do it?” After which, Trump coyly responded “I’ll let you guess.”
He had told reporters a few days prior that he had never cheated on his wife but admitted that he had hid Maples in the Hamptons in order to keep the media from prying into her life. The two met, in fact, in the Marble Collegiate Church, where Donald and Ivana married 13 years prior.
At the time, the tabloids were already ablaze with details of the ways in which Trump was attempting to keep the two women separated including a February 20 story that discussed a secret “Corvette Squad” he had commissioned to make this possible.
“Trump commissioned three beefy bodyguards to keep his wife and his alleged mistress apart,” Pessin and Hoffmann wrote.
The story claimed that the team of bodyguards were called the Corvette Squad and were hired to keep a 24-hour “tail on The Donald’s Georgia peach.” They attributed the information to a “high-ranking source in the Trump Organization.” (Trump himself would often provide quotes to publications like this attributed to pseudonyms he invented like John Baron and John Miller. At one point, “Miller” bragged to a reporter that in addition to living with Maples, he had “three other girlfriends”).
“The three of them would spirit Marla in and out of Trump’s hotels and casinos,” the Post report reads. “She would always stay in a room on a floor below Donald’s and the wheeler-dealer would sneak visits with her.”
The same story alleged that in one instance, Trump banned Maples from coming on his yacht, the Trump Princess, because Ivana was on board at the time.
“Marla injured her foot as she kicked furniture and stormed around a secret 25th-floor suite in Trump Castle in Atlantic City, the source recalled,” the story says. At the time, Maples and Trump contended that they were merely friends.
In New York City’s press, Trump let his lecherous activities play out in real time. But in private, he tried to avoid the issue of adultery at all costs.
In depositions during his 1990 divorce proceedings with Ivana, Trump plead the Fifth Amendment on 97 out of 100 questions pertaining to adultery, as described in biographer Wayne Barrett’s 1992 book “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth.”
“Donald preaches about his devotion to the Second Amendment, but it was the Fifth Amendment that was his favorite when he was deposed in the divorce with Ivana,” Barrett wrote in the book.
As the saga wore on, with Trump trying to keep the women away from each other, Ivana and Maples reportedly got into a public spat at an Aspen ski resort in the winter of 1990. After Ivana detailed the encounter in an interview with Barbara Walters, Trump reportedly tried to cut off her alimony payments. Maples would also go on to confirm the encounter in similar language in Tim O’Brien’s book “Trump Nation.”
It later became a point of pride for Trump that he had many alleged dalliances with women, some of whom he claimed were married.
In his 1997 book, “The Art of the Comeback,” Trump boasted: “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.”
As the 90s wore on, Trump invited the discussion of what he personally deemed to be a successful sex life. When he first considered a presidential run in 2000—a few years after the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the White House—Trump told Chris Matthews: “Can you imagine how controversial I’d be? You think about Clinton and the women. How about me and the women? Can you imagine?”
His public and private posturing on the nature of adultery took a sinister turn years later, when Trump was recorded having a conversation with Billy Bush on the set of “Access Hollywood.” Months after he married his third and current wife, Melania, Trump was recorded discussing his attempts to seduce a woman who he admitted was married.
“I did try and fuck her. She was married,” Trump said. “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump continued. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
Not only did Trump demonstrate a persistent devil-may-care attitude when it came to the marriage of other women, but as made clear by a number of accusations of sexual assault, he allegedly tried to capitalize on his celebrity status to grope women whenever he wanted.
He’s always made himself out to be a star. And according to Trump, stars do what they want.