If you’ve wondered why President Donald Trump often appears to be such a callous, bloviating ass, and why his first-born son, Don Jr., so often comes off as an insufferable tryhard straining to appear tough, then this newly published GQ profile of Jr. is more than instructive.
We’ve heard disturbing stories about Trump’s treatment of Donny before — including a college roommate’s account of Donald Sr. hitting his son in the face when he wasn’t dressed in a suit for a baseball game.
This article provides another startling glimpse into Jr.’s upbringing, specifically his fraught relationship with a father who comes off as emotionally distant at best and abusive and manipulative at worst. If we are all, to varying degrees, products of our environments, then learning about Don’s relationship with his father offers some insight into how he became such a relentless (and clueless) purveyor of right-wing propaganda, conspiracy theories and feeble attempts to own the libs.
Below are the most important things we learned about Trump’s unique approach to parenting.
1. He never took an interest in his son’s hobbies
Don Jr. is an avid outdoorsman. He can frequently be seen wearing camo gear and neon hunting vests and enjoys shooting guns in the wilderness. It’s a surprising affectation for a guy who grew up in gaudy Manhattan high-rises, but the piece portrays Don Jr. as a naturally shy personality who was forced to adopt his father’s infamous bluster.
President Trump never even feigned interest in his son’s favorite hobby, however:
“I am not a believer in hunting, and I’m surprised they like it,” Trump told TMZ of his two eldest sons.
Only when he began campaigning for the White House did Donald Trump see some value in his son’s bloody pastime. According to Sam Nunberg, a Trump adviser at the time, when an invitation arrived from the governor of Iowa to go hunting ahead of the state’s crucial caucuses, Trump joked, “Don, you can finally do something for me — you can go hunting.”
2. He’s a perfectionist for whom nothing is ever enough
Every father looms large over his son, but the shadow cast by Trump the Elder and the playboy billionaire persona he’s so stridently cultivated over the years has proved impossible for Don Jr. to live up to.
When a Brazilian journalist asked Don in 2010 whether there was much pressure being Donald junior, he replied, “There probably shouldn’t be. But there is for me, because you want to please someone like that, and he’s a perfectionist. There’s definitely always that shadow that follows you around, like how is this guy, the son of someone so good at what he does, going to act?”
3. He’s a raging narcissist, even compared to his own son
Most fathers name their sons in a vain attempt to live vicariously through them and deny their mortality. But Trump is such a raging narcissist that he worried naming his son Donald would somehow sully his own name and reputation if the kid turned out to be a dud, according to Ivana Trump’s memoir.
According to his first wife, Ivana, Donald Trump was never keen on bequeathing his name to anybody. It was Ivana who wanted to call their newborn Donald junior. “You can’t do that!” Trump is quoted as saying in Ivana’s memoir, ‘Raising Trump.’ “What if he’s a loser?”
4. He gave his son a condescending nickname
Lest there be any confusion, Trump referred to his eldest child as Donny, a name Trump Sr. abhorred.
When he was growing up, [Don Jr.’s] dad called him Donny — a moniker the elder Trump would never go by. “[It’s] a name I hate,” he explained in The Art of the Deal.
5. He abandoned a newborn Don Jr. for a New Year’s Eve party
That evening he was born, little Don was left by his parents to the care of the hospital’s nursery. His father headed home to celebrate New Year’s Eve, while Ivana put a boa and a mink over her hospital gown and went to visit a girlfriend recovering from back surgery on another floor of the hospital.
6. He was emotionally absent
Given how downright childish Trump Sr. can seem at times — his schoolyard name-calling, his diet—it’s interesting to learn he was unable to relate to his young children at all, and how he reportedly used it as an excuse to abstain from parenting duties altogether. Until, of course, the kids were old enough to contribute to the family enterprise.
“[Trump] would love them, but he did not know how to speak to them in the children’s way of thinking,” Ivana said of her ex-husband on The Wendy Williams Show last year. “He was able to speak to them only when they came from university, when eventually he was able to speak business to them. Otherwise, he really did not know how to handle the kids.” The interactions were apparently alien in both directions. “The children didn’t know how to relate to him, either,” Ivana wrote in her book.
7. He made it clear his children couldn’t depend on him
They say the foundation for any healthy relationship (romantic, friendly, sibling, parental, etc.) is mutual trust. Trump made it very clear to his children that their relationship was based on a fundamental lack of it.
… a key Trump mantra, according to both Ivana and Don, neither of whom agreed to be interviewed for this story, was “Don’t trust anyone.” Trump would test his children on this maxim. “He’d say, ‘Do you trust me, your own father?’ ” Don once recalled. “We’d say, ‘Of course we do!’ And he’d say, ‘What did I just tell you? You didn’t take the lesson!’ It was certainly an interesting Trump moment,” Don continued, talking at a pressured, sober clip, “because it’s not something you’d see any conventional parent-child conversation go that way, especially not fully understanding what the concept of trust was.”
8. He sorta held his son hostage during divorce proceedings
There are few things as gross as two divorced adults using their children as pawns in a divorce proxy war. The only thing scummier is making your son feel worthless in the process. This line from the GQ profile was, perhaps, the standout:
… as Trump engaged Ivana in an epic public feud, he dispatched a bodyguard to his triplex apartment with instructions to bring his elder boy down to his office. Don, still not talking to his father, descended with the bodyguard to the 28th floor, and a few minutes later, Ivana, who described all this in her book, got a phone call. It was Trump, looking for some leverage by announcing that he was going to keep Don and raise him alone.
“Okay, keep him,” Ivana said she told him. “I have two other kids to raise.”
A few minutes later — his bluff out-bluffed — Trump ordered his boy to be taken back upstairs. “Donald never had any intention of keeping his son,” Ivana wrote.