Perhaps the only thing longer than Donald Trump’s list of failed business ventures—and tweets punctuated by the riposte Sad!—is his odious history of misogyny. And one of the more blatant examples of his degrading attitude toward women was captured by the cameras on his reality series The Celebrity Apprentice 6, which aired in spring 2013.
During one of the show’s infamous boardroom-tribunals, where the man who claims he will “Make America Great Again” rose to great celebrity heights by ceremoniously firing people, contestant Bret Michaels described how fellow contestant and former Playmate of the Year Brande Roderick “got down on her knees” and begged to keep her job after botching a task. This comment piqued the interest of Trump, who then took it upon himself to sexually harass one of his mock-employees on national television.
“Excuse me… you dropped to your knees?” said Trump, flashing a shit-eating grin. “Must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”
Roderick braves a pained smile, before her attention shifts to the man cackling with approval in the corner: Piers Morgan.
Morgan won the first iteration of The Celebrity Apprentice back in 2008, and since then, has regularly corresponded with Trump, whom he calls “an extraordinary man” and “incredibly loyal friend.” He even claims to have kept a diary of all their exchanges, and gushed over the sycophantic notes the real estate tycoon regularly sends him in a September column for The Daily Mail. And it’s here, as editor-at-large for The Daily Mail, that Morgan has become an unofficial publicist for candidate Trump, publishing column after column praising his pal.
Back in August, after Trump questioned Vietnam POW John McCain’s “war hero” status—and was taken to task by debate moderator Megyn Kelly for his past sexist comments—Morgan defended Trump with a column headlined, “Yes, Donald Trump can be vicious, arrogant, obnoxious and even a little bit evil—which is exactly why a lot of people think he will make a bloody good President.” Trump’s SNL performance in November even had Morgan “howling in fits of laughter.” But the pièce de résistance came yesterday, when Morgan published a column in the wake of the Brussels terrorist attacks titled, “When it comes to terror, isn’t it time we started listening seriously to Trump?”
It was, as expected, another tugjob. Despite the real estate tycoon having zero foreign policy experience and a foreign policy advisory team that includes a recent college grad who listed “Model UN” as a credential, Morgan claimed he was the candidate with the answers for confronting ISIS. “Here is one man who definitely has a plan to deal with ISIS terrorism. Several plans in fact,” he wrote, before providing a few of these so-called “plans”: “a short-term ban on Muslims entering the U.S.,” “to torture suspects like [Paris attacks terrorist] Abdeslam with techniques like water-boarding to try and extract information about future attacks,” and “he wants to build a giant wall to stop illegal immigrants pouring over the Mexican border into America.” One of these plays directly into ISIS’s hands, vilifying innocent Muslims whilst leaving them to the slaughter; one of these is a war crime; and one of these involves Mexico. None of these are concrete plans to “deal with ISIS terrorism.”
Of course, this recent bit of lip service was also meant to serve as a tease for Morgan’s interview with Trump Wednesday morning on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Putting aside the glaringly obvious ethical dilemma that is having a good friend of a presidential candidate interview him or her on air, Morgan—as expected—lobbed his pal softball questions, failing on numerous occasions to ask follow-up questions in the wake of the GOP frontrunner’s empty claims.
When asked what American Muslims should be doing to combat extremism, Trump replied, “I would say this to the Muslims, in the United States also: When they see trouble they have to report, and they are not reporting it. They are absolutely not reporting it. That’s a big problem.”
Was this empty claim disputed by Morgan? Nope.
When asked about the Brussels attacks, Trump replied, “It’s a different world, a different place. There’s no assimilation. What’s going on there and what’s going on in other cities like Paris and others is a disgrace—an absolute disgrace—that we allow it to happen.” Did Morgan ask a follow-up question about, say, Trump attempting to score political points from a tragedy as it was still unfolding—and before the bodies were even counted? Nope.
When asked how he’d vanquish ISIS, Trump replied, “I would hit ISIS so hard you wouldn’t believe it. I’d get the people over there to put up their soldiers. It’s about time somebody did it. I’d have such backup like you’ve never seen in terms of air power, like… You’ve got to take them out and you’ve got to take them out harshly and you’ve got to take them out fast.” A follow-up about what, precisely, Trump’s plan would be to “take them out?” Nope.
It was a total embarrassment—then again, Morgan has been an utter embarrassment his entire career.
In 1994, at the age of 29, Morgan was appointed editor of News of the World by Rupert Murdoch. He was publicly shamed by Murdoch after publishing an awful front-page story featuring a photograph of Lady Spencer, Princess Diana’s sister-in-law, at an addiction clinic, where she was receiving treatment for, as the headline so elegantly put it, “booze and bulimia.”
From there, Morgan moved on to become editor of the Daily Mirror, where he was soon embroiled in a corruption scandal when it was revealed that he’d “used his wife’s savings account to fund part of a £67,000 investment in computer company Viglen a day before the shares were tipped by the paper’s City Slickers column,” reported The Guardian. He was eventually fired from the Daily Mirror in 2004 after publishing fake photos that purported to show British troops torturing an Iraqi prisoner—and, according to The Guardian, refusing to apologize for the error.
Morgan then, like The Donald, transitioned to the world of reality TV, serving as a judge on NBC’s America’s Got Talent as well becoming a contestant on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice where, in 2007, he was the first person fired after getting into an actual brawl with Trinny Woodall, a female contestant on the show. He’d win Celebrity Apprentice the following year, and later serve as a guest judge on the Trump-hosted program. Morgan then somehow landed a cushy gig at CNN, replacing Larry King as the host of the nightly talk show Piers Morgan Live. On the program, Morgan served as a valuable gun control advocate, but was also accused of transphobia following his degrading treatment of guest Janet Mock, a transgender woman.
One area where Morgan and Trump see eye-to-eye is in their misogynistic treatment of women. Morgan’s Daily Mail columns—and Twitter—regularly objectify and denigrate women, from Susan Sarandon for her choice of outfit at the Oscars to Madonna, whom he called “mortifying” and branded “an embarrassing mother” in the midst of a heated custody battle for such crimes as spending “much of her time gyrating semi-naked on stage in fishnet stockings and bondage gear,” trading “lesbian kisses with the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera,” and dating “absurdly young 21-year-old toy-boys with names like Jesus.” This is also, mind you, a man who once penned a column for The Sun that bore the headline, “Nirvana Star Kurt’s Baby Born a Drug Addict,” accusing Courtney Love of not only shooting up heroin during her pregnancy, but also infecting her child, Frances Bean (it turned out to be bogus).
But the most damning allegations against Morgan concern his alleged knowledge of phone hacking during his tenure as editor of the Daily Mirror.
In 2006, Morgan penned a piece for The Daily Mail describing how he’d been “played a tape of a message Paul [McCartney] had left for Heather [Mills] on her mobile phone.” During the Leveson Inquiry, Mills claimed to have never recorded such a message, and later told the BBC, “There was absolutely no honest way that Piers Morgan could have obtained that tape that he has so proudly bragged about unless they had gone into my voice messages.” Meanwhile James Hipwell, who served as a financial journalist at the Daily Mirror while Morgan was editor, claimed that celebrity phone-hacking was common practice under Morgan’s editorship.
“You know what people around you are doing,” Hipwell told the Independent. “They would call a celebrity with one phone and when it was answered they would then hang up. By that stage, the other phone would be into [the celebrity’s] voicemail and they would key in the code, 9999 or 0000. I saw that a lot.”
He added: “It was seen as a bit of a wheeze—something that was slightly underhand but something many of them did. What a laugh. After they’d hacked into someone's mobile, they’d delete the message so another paper couldn’t get the story. There was great hilarity about it.”
Morgan was asked about phone hacking in a 2007 GQ interview with Naomi Campbell, to which he replied, “I can’t get too excited about it… It was pretty well-known that if you didn’t change your pin code when you were a celebrity who bought a new phone, then reporters could ring your mobile, tap in a standard factory setting number and hear your messages.” When Campbell called this an “invasion of privacy,” Morgan responded, “It is, yes. But loads of newspaper journalists were doing it.”
In late 2014, the publisher of the Daily Mirror acknowledged that numerous Mirror stories that ran between 2002 and 2004—under Morgan’s editorship—probably involved “unlawful interceptions of voicemails.” Still Morgan, who’s claimed to have never had any knowledge of phone hacking during his tenure at the Daily Mirror, was cleared by the authorities due to lack of evidence.
When it comes to Morgan, perhaps the inimitable Rihanna said it best: