Wait, I once talked to Donald Trump about a laundry detergent?
Apparently I did. In its latest expose about Trump’s tax returns, The New York Times reports that as part of a promotion for Unilever, the future president of the United States cold-called me in 2005 to tout the company’s All Cleans & Softens brand laundry detergent.
I don’t remember that call. Not even a little. And that’s saying something. Because as an entertainment reporter for The Boston Globe, I’ve talked to all sorts of celebrities, from Madonna to Yo-Yo Ma, and in one way or another they all made an impression on me.
Not Donald Trump. When I read the Times story this morning, my first thought was: FAKE NEWS! No way did I ever talk to Trump, and certainly not about laundry detergent. I’d remember that. No, it turns out, I wouldn’t.
A search of the Globe archives reveals that Donald Trump, who was then riding high as host of “The Apprentice,” did, in fact, call to chat about laundry detergent. And even though he’s the one who called me, he had the nerve to put me on hold!
Here is what I wrote then about a call I received 15 years ago from the guy who now occupies the White House:
First published in the Boston Globe on July 21, 2005
Please hold. That’s the word from Donald Trump’s secretary, who says America’s best-known billionaire will be just a minute. But wait, you called me. The Donald’s people phoned a few weeks ago, asking if at some point I’d like 10 minutes of his time to talk about laundry detergent. The pitch, such as it was, went something like this: One of the baddest businessmen in the world is going soft, teaming up with a product called Cleans & Softens for charity. As part of the, er, unique promotion, Trump washed dirty shirts and skivvies in a laundry room at the posh Trump Tower, and Cleans & Softens has donated some dough to the Salvation Army. When he finally got on the phone, we talked.
A. What’s going on?
Q. I don’t know. What’s this Cleans & Softens thing all about?
A. Unilever is a great company, and a lot of money is going to be paid to the Salvation Army.
Q. But what about your reputation as, you know, a tough guy?
A. I like to be the nice guy every once in a while. Besides, my mother used this product years and years ago.
Q. You’ve also done ads for McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Visa. Why do you need to do ads?
A. It’s more of a charitable thing. People are willing to pay me a lot of money to do these things, and I give a lot of money away to charity. Have you seen my Visa ads? They’re good.
Q. But laundry detergent?
A. I probably turn down 50 for every one I do. This is a product my mother used.
Q. You don’t do your own laundry, do you?
A. No. Obviously, I have people.
Q. Like your wife?
A. She actually likes doing it. She’s someone who’s into absolute cleanliness. That’s one of the reasons I dig her.
Q. With the success of “The Apprentice,” it seems like this is the third or fourth incarnation of Donald Trump.
A. I’m the same person. My real estate company is setting records in New York, and we’re doing a 90-story building in Chicago, so the real estate thing has always been great. But, yeah, “The Apprentice” came along, and nobody really knew what would happen. I knew women would like it because I like women.
A. It’s been imitated, but [Mark] Cuban, [Richard] Branson, and [Tommy] Hilfiger have all failed. I enjoy watching them fail.
Q. One more thing. You’re a big Yankees fan. Was it tough seeing them fail, losing four in a row to the Sox [in the American League Championship Series]?
A. I have great respect for your team. Always have. Who would have thought we’d be three up and then lose. It was strange. But it was great for baseball and great for Boston. I think it’s going to be another wild time this year.