Donald Trump said Friday that a newly resurfaced recording of a man who sounds like Trump posing as his spokesman isn’t him — even though he has admitted in the past to posing as his own publicist under a pseudonym.
“It was not me on the phone,” Trump told NBC’s “Today” show when the recording was played for him during a live interview. “And it doesn’t sound like me on the phone, I’ll tell you that, and it was not me on the phone.”
NBC was asking Trump about a Washington Post report published earlier Friday that claims Trump routinely made calls to reporters in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s posing as a publicist named John Miller or John Barron, advocating for himself and answering questions about his personal life and business dealings.
The man in the 14-minute recording sounds much like Trump, and the Post pointed to Trump’s long appreciation of the name Barron, including the name of his youngest son.
The Post also cited 1990 court case testimony in which Trump testified, “I believe on occasion I used that name” when asked about Barron. CNN has obtained a copy of Trump’s testimony during that case.
On “Today” Friday morning, Trump at first said he didn’t “think” it was him on the recording.
“This sounds like one of the scams, one of the many scams, doesn’t sound like me,” Trump said. “I don’t think it was me, it doesn’t sound like me.”
When pressed by the anchors, Trump explicitly said it wasn’t him.
And then he testily told the journalists to move on.
“You’re going so low to talk about something that took place 25 years ago whether or not I made a phone call?” Trump said. “Let’s get on to more current subjects.”
Thomas Owen, a New Jersey-based forensic audio specialist, told CNN Friday that based on several criteria — including pitch, tone and cadence — Miller’s voice in the audio obtained by the Post is consistent with Trump’s in the early 1990s.
“I can conclude with a fair degree of scientific certainty that it is Donald Trump’s voice,” Owen said, though he noted that due to the recording’s quality, he wasn’t able to use biometric analysis that would make him absolutely certain.
Friday afternoon, Washington Post reporter James Hohmann tweeted that Trump’s telephone line “went silent, then dead, this afternoon when WaPo asked: ‘Did you ever employ someone named John Miller as a spokesperson?'”
“WaPo reporters were 44 mins into a phone interview w Trump abt his finances when asked about John Miller. The phone went silent, then dead,” Hohmann added.
Sue Carswell, a former People magazine reporter whose 1991 interview with Miller was highlighted in the Post article, told CNN’s Michael Smerconish on Saturday that she was convinced it was Trump on the tape. She said Trump apologized for posing as a publicist shortly after the article ran, calling it a “joke.”
She speculated that Trump himself leaked the tape to the Post, though the paper said it obtained the recording from a source with whom Carswell had shared the microcassette of the call shortly after the interview.
A message left with the Trump campaign seeking a response to Carswell’s claim was not immediately returned.
“Two people had the tape: I had a tape and Trump had a tape,” said Carswell, who is now a reporter for Vanity Fair. “And I don’t have the tape. Well, it didn’t get to The Washington Post through me.”
“It says a lot about Trump,” Carswell added. “I think we should be concerned about his judgment and the fact that he could pull things like this in the future.”
An open secret
Trump’s history of impersonating his own spokesman has long been an open secret at the Trump Organization and among New York media circles.
At least one former Trump Organization executive has confirmed to CNN that Trump at times responded to media requests personally under the guise of a spokesman.
Trump’s apparent alter ego was quoted repeatedly and prominently in newspapers, magazines and especially in the gossip pages of New York tabloids.
In 1984 and 1985, several New York Times articles attributed quotes about Trump’s business dealings to “John Barron, a vice president of the Trump Organization.”
And Trump’s unofficial biographers also pulled the thin veil off Trump’s cover identity.
Michael D’Antonio wrote in “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” that “John Barron was a way for Trump to talk himself up.”
“He’d be able to express things that he wanted expressed about himself by someone that wasn’t him,” D’Antonio wrote.
And the audio recording reveals more than just a remarkable likeness to Trump’s own voice, but also in the spokesman’s cadence, word choice and the billionaire’s trademark bravado.
Discussing Trump’s divorce and his prospects with women, “John Miller” said Trump is “somebody that has a lot of options, and, frankly, he gets called by everybody. He gets called by everybody in the book, in terms of women,” according to the audio recording obtained by The Washington Post.
Miller also describes a past encounter between Trump and Madonna in great detail.
“Madonna was in the room, and so somebody from Madonna’s entourage — because she comes in with an entourage of dancers and everything else — and somebody from Madonna’s entourage came over and said, ‘Would you go over and say hello to Madonna?’ And so he went over and said hello to Madonna and he gave his autograph to the dancers. She said, ‘These are fans’ and all this. ‘Will you give them the autograph?’ So he said, ‘Best wishes’ or something,” Miller said, according to the recording. “And then all of a sudden — and that was the end. And then he said goodbye to her and that was literally the end. He’s got zero interest in Madonna. It was literally the end.”
The spokesman then goes on to purport that Madonna “wanted to go out” with Trump.
Amid regaling the reporter with tales of Trump’s encounters with models, actresses and the pop queen, the spokesman added in an aside: “By the way, I’m sort of new here.”