“I had never heard him say ‘pussy’ before. I heard him say ‘fuck’ a million times,” Barbara Res told me. “The way he said it—I just grab it—I was shocked at that, and then you know, when I took the time to put it into context, I said, yeah, that’s right.”
Beginning in 1978, Res worked for Donald Trump for 18 years, as the executive vice president and senior vice president at the Trump Organization. She oversaw the construction of Trump Tower on 57th and Fifth and the rehabilitation of the Plaza Hotel on Central Park South. There’s an iconic photo of her, raven hair spread out underneath a hard hat, cardigan draped over her dust-covered jeans, on site. At rallies, Trump likes to use her—though not by name—as proof that he respects women.
One problem with that, though: “I think he’s a supreme sexist,” Res said. She won’t go as far as to call him a misogynist, however, although she freely uses another M-word: megalomaniac.
“He’s terribly sexist. He’s a womanizer for sure,” she said. “He hired me for a specific reason: Because I was really good. And he told me, and he believed this, that women had to work harder and be smarter and were willing to work harder than men, and that’s what he wanted, and he had a couple of women working for him… ‘Men are better than women,’ he said, ‘but a good woman is better than 10 men.’ I think he thought I would take it as a compliment, and I think it was intended as a compliment.”
Res has been telling her story—to The Daily Beast, The New York Times, the New York Daily News, and on Twitter—since Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015. She is quick witted and insightful, and her words provide nuance and honesty in a campaign that has lacked both. After the publication Friday, by The Washington Post, of a tape in which Trump could be heard boasting about sexually assaulting women—“grab them by the pussy,” he said—I spoke with Res to learn how a woman who once knew him well interpreted the remarks that have caused his campaign to implode.
“I thought about the times that he bragged about how women were chasing him and all these movie stars wanted him, talking about how he’s such a magnet to women,” she said.
“He once said that, when his business was failing in the early ’90s, he blamed it on the fact that his executives did a bad job while he was off, in his words, ‘fucking women two and three at a time’—he said that!”
She added, “We were in a limousine the first time he said that, and there were people there we didn’t really know very well, you know? And it just, it was very uncomfortable for me… He wanted it to be believed.
“I saw him leering at women and putting his arm around them and stuff like that, but never anything of the magnitude described,” she said.
Res said that during the construction of Trump Tower, they were close, and he could be nice. But he also had a mean streak, and Res called him “abusive.” “He yelled at me all the time. ‘This is no fucking good, these contractors are taking advantage of you, and you think you’re so fucking smart,’ but always to me, not in front of other people. But I gave him back pretty good, and he was pretty respectful of me overall. He didn’t take me apart in front of other people which he did with several of his own employees.”
In the early days, Res said, Trump was the kind of guy who respected people who talked back, like she did. But then something changed. “I learned very quickly when I went back that you don’t talk back to him anymore,” she said. “If I had to tell him something, an idea of his was stupid or I didn’t want to do it, I would try to figure out a way to make him think that he had changed his mind, or that my idea was his idea, and I used to tell him how great he was and how great Ivana was all the time.”
Res explained that as Trump’s fame grew, his ability to withstand criticism—or even honesty—shrank. “He got too famous. He started believing his own shit,” she said. “He got way too famous and, you know, people were telling him he was great and he was buying that. He started thinking that he walked on water, he really did.”
Res said it was complicated for her, because even as Trump became personally intolerable, she loved her work, and he gave her a lot of room to do what she wanted. “There were tremendous perks,” too, she said. “Besides being paid a good salary and having a very high title, there were things like theater tickets and concert tickets and stuff like that that they would just send him, and you know, I would get to go. It was exciting working for him. And there was press, I did a lot of press. So, you know, put in perspective, once in a while you’d have to take some shit from him, it was alright.
“Now,” she said, “I don’t think he respects anybody. I don’t think there’s a person alive that he respects, because he thinks he’s God.”