'I put lipstick on a pig,' says Trump's 'Art of the Deal' ghostwriter, breaking a decades-long silence

Days before Donald Trump accepts the Republican nomination for president, the New Yorker has published a regret-laden interview with the ghostwriter of his best-selling 1987 memoir, "The Art of the Deal."

Tony Schwartz, writes Jane Mayer, was a respected magazine writer when he made a conscious decision to sell out (his phrase) and write a book that made him rich but robbed him of his integrity along the way.

Schwartz spent 18 months with Trump, much of that time eavesdropping (with Trump's permission) on phone calls, both personal and professional. The resulting portrait, he now says, was skewed and dishonest.  

"I put lipstick on a pig," Schwartz told Mayer. "I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is."

Among the revelations:

  • Trump asked Schwartz to ghostwrite "The Art of the Deal" after Schwartz published a negative profile of him in New York magazine in 1985. Trump loved the piece.
  • Trump denies that Schwartz wrote the book, even though Schwartz received half the advance and has received half the royalties, millions of dollars. "Tony was very good. He was the co-author," Trump told Mayer. "He didn't write the book. I wrote the book. I wrote the book. It was my book. And it was a No. 1 best-seller, and one of the best-selling business books of all time. Some say it was the best-selling business book ever." (Mayer said that was untrue.)
  • Schwartz created a term that Trump loved — "truthful hyperbole" — to describe Trump's relationship to the truth. Schwartz now disavows the phrase. "'Truthful hyperbole' is a contradiction in terms," he told Mayer. "It's a way of saying, 'It's a lie but who cares?'"
  • "I created a character more winning than Trump actually is," Schwartz said, telling the New Yorker he omitted a number of unflattering incidents and details because the book was aimed at making Trump "the hero of every chapter."
  • Far from being a self-made man, Trump was supported by his father, who successfully lobbied New York City officials for a large tax abatement that they had denied the son, which allowed Trump to build the Grand Hyatt Hotel next to Grand Central. His father also co-signed many of the required contracts, which was not disclosed in "The Art of the Deal."
  • "The Art of the Deal" said that Trump's father was born in New Jersey to Swedish parents; he was born in the Bronx to German parents. (And this, notes Mayer, was long before Trump spread falsehoods about President Obama's origins.)
  • Schwartz, who still received royalties from the book, said he plans to pledge all 2016 proceeds of the book to the National Immigration Law Center, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Victims of Torture, the National Immigration Forum and the Tahirih Justice Center. "I like the idea that the more copies that 'The Art of the Deal' sells, the more money I can donate to people whose rights Trump seeks to abridge."

When Mayer called Trump for a comment, Trump dismissed Schwartz: "He's probably just doing it for the publicity. Wow. That's great disloyalty, because I made Tony rich."

Here's a link to the glowing "The Art of the Deal" review published by The Times in 1988.

robin.abcarian@latimes.com

Twitter: @AbcarianLAT

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