Donald Trump’s most hated biographer is back—and his book, now more than two decades old, is so controversial that his own publisher has deemed it too “dangerous” to reprint.
Harry Hurt III, the irascible, dogged writer behind Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump approached his former editor at publishing company W.W. Norton, Starling Lawrence, two months ago.
Hurt’s 23-year-old book reveals the bombshell that Trump’s ex-wife Ivana accused him of “rape” in a sworn deposition during their divorce, something she has since said she didn’t mean in the “criminal” sense.
Perhaps W.W. Norton could re-release the book to coincide with Trump’s presidential nomination, Hurt suggested. Lawrence asked him to write a new foreword to the book, but the publishing house’s lawyer viewed the book as too much of a risk.
“[Starling] informed me that Norton’s current in-house lawyer, whose name I do not know, had deemed the book too ‘dangerous’ to reissue,” Hurt told The Daily Beast. “It’s chickenshit, since the book has been out for 23 years, and no one has even threatened to sue me… So that’s kind of bullshit.”
Lawrence and a W.W. Norton publicist declined to comment for this story.
As a response, Hurt acquired the rights to the book and has published a “quick and dirty” version of the book on Kindle while he searches for another print publisher.
This is not the first time the book has faced legal challenges. In 1993, as the book was being prepared for publication, Trump and his attorney demanded a meeting to discuss the Ivana’s rape allegation.
“They got angrier and angrier. Donald jumped up and pulled a tape recorder out of the pocket of his suit, and declared, ‘I’ve got all this on tape,’” Hurt recalls, adding that Trump’s lawyer turned pale at the incident. W.W. Norton’s lawyer responded, “‘Oh, you’ve been taping the whole time, and didn’t tell us? That’s not right.’”
Trump and his lawyer stormed off. And Hurt hasn’t been threatened with a lawsuit from the famously-litigious Trump since.
“Never in my wildest nightmares would I have dreamt Donald Trump would be the presidential nominee for a major political party,” Hurt told The Daily Beast.
But Trump’s presidential run has done Hurt’s book a lot of good.
The book rocketed up in value as Trump has ascended to the top of the GOP pack: used copies of Hurt’s book, which by now have become rare, are listed on Amazon for $115 per copy. The most expensive copy of the book is listed at a whopping $1,872.21—plus shipping.
That’s what “dead Nobel Prize winners get,” he said, with some satisfaction.
Hurt, who spent two and a half years years writing and researching Trump for his book, came to the conclusion that the businessman is intellectually and morally unfit to be the president of the United States.
“I know of no other previous president who as a developer enthusiastically sought and lavishly compensated mob associated concrete pouring contractors for his buildings, who bankrupted four casinos, who deliberately induced bankers to lend him money on real estate projects that were destined to go bankrupt because he knew they were ‘too big to fail,’ and who has an ex-wife who swore he raped her,” Hurt said.
Last year The Daily Beast resurfaced the allegations featured in Hurt’s book, leading to controversy and a predictable Trump Twitter lash-out. Trump called him a “failed writer” and a “dummy dope,” both of which Hurt believes to be “complements both coming from him.”
Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
There has been a scramble among political reporters to grab a copy of Hurt’s biography—the version at Washington, D.C.’s Martin Luther King Library, upon which The Daily Beast’s 2015 story was based, has since disappeared.
Hurt, 64, has been an observer of Trump for decades. And while the author has delved into the deepest recesses of Trump’s business empire, he doesn’t view the man as a misogynist per se. Regarding Trump’s treatment of women, Hurt views him as an equal opportunity offender—one who is a “user” that treats men and women alike, aside from sex.
“Yes, he promoted women inside his empire at various points, and put them in positions then reserved mainly for men. But as he pushed them upward with one hand, he pulled them down with the other,” Hurt said.
The prime example of this is Ivana Trump, who features heavily in Lost Tycoon, he argues.
“He had her running Trump Castle in Atlantic City, then the Plaza Hotel in New York City. By almost all accounts, Ivana performed very well in both jobs. But Donald was still critical of her personally, declaring that her emphasis on work made her perform poorly as a wife,” Hurt said.
Hurt is appalled that Trump has secured a presidential nomination, but always had a sense that The Donald would one day run for the White House—at least for the publicity of it all.
“I think he started it as a marketing ploy and that he is as surprised as anyone that it’s gotten this far,” he said.
Hurt left journalism in 2009 due to the financial challenges of the industry and what he views as as the subsequent and related decline in respect he received from New York media editors.
“Once upon a time, I got paid $3-$4 per word for stories. Now I’m lucky to get a buck a word. That is the result of many larger forces, particularly the rise of the internet and the consolidation of major media into a few hands. Which, in turn, feeds into the disrespect side,” he said.
He now teaches “writing, English, history, economics, art history, and life” to high school and college students, which he views as both “extremely rewarding” and better compensated than journalism has ever been.
But with Trump’s rise, Hurt’s fate has intertwined with the mogul once again. And as he searches for a publisher for his Trump biography, Hurt of all people knows: if there’s nothing else Trump is famous for, it’s a comeback.