By James Thomas
Don’t worry Malcolm, I know how you feel. My phone call with The Donald ended with him threatening to sue me.
I was a reporter for Seven’s Today Tonight at the time, circa 2008, and we’d heard of an enterprising young businessman in Ipswich who’d convinced Donald Trump to come to Australia on a speaking tour.
Yep, Malcolm Quinn had read one of The Donald’s books of business inspiration.
Given what we now know, who knows if Donald ever wrote a single word of it, but it was enough to convince the boy from Ipswich to take a bite at getting the Big Apple’s biggest ego, now POTUS, to come to Australia on a speaking tour.
And guess what — The Donald said yes. What a top bloke, we thought. My boss knew we’d be on a winner if we could take Malcolm to New York to meet his hero and future guest speaker.
So, Seven stumped up the cash and we set off to meet Donald — with Malcolm in the middle.
We passed many expensive cars in the basement of Trump Tower, I can’t remember makes and models but think Rolls Royce Phantom etc, and ascended to the top — of course.
And there was Donald in a suitably oversized and over the top office, surrounded with sporting memorabilia and the signatures of famous people on baseballs, golf balls, NFL footballs etc.
The story went off without a hitch. Well, largely — Donald was a bit “pissed” when I asked him to re-do his walk down a corridor three times.
Billionaires never really get the need for cutaways. Even if they do work in TV.
Back home we broadcast our story on Donald — the billionaire who gave the little guy from Australia a break by agreeing magnanimously to come down under for a speaking tour.
Malcolm was also overjoyed with the publicity the story would provide for his upcoming tour with Donald.
There was one problem Malcolm didn’t bank on. Back in 2008, Mr Trump was so unpopular/unknown, Malcolm told us he couldn’t offload the tickets for the event.
It gets worse. Malcolm, a small businessman from Ipswich who had a wife and kids, said he had mortgaged his home to provide Donald with a $1 million advance for the Aussie tour.
This was terrible news for Malcolm as he stood to lose his house, not to mention the stress on his family.
Mr Trump hadn’t lifted a finger, surely the billionaire would return the money? Nope. Donald refused to help Malcolm out — and so began the makings of a second Today Tonight story. Mr Trump isn’t a top bloke after all.
Prior to filming, we contacted Mr Trump’s office for an interview and to suggest he give Malcolm his money back.
After all, in Donald’s (ghost written?) book that inspired Malcolm, he talks of the need for generosity in business, like when the banks forgave a mountain of his debt when he hit the skids in the ’90s.
I wasn’t really expecting Mr Trump to call. But we now know, he is one sensitive dude and even a TT journo from Australia can seemingly provoke the ire of a future president.
“Ring ring… Ring ring…”
“Is that James Thomas?”
“Yes… who is this?”