During our conversation, Cohen recalled a discussion at Trump Tower, following the then-candidate’s return from a campaign rally during the 2016 election cycle. Cohen had watched the rally on TV and noticed that the crowd was largely Caucasian. He offered this observation to his boss. “I told Trump that the rally looked vanilla on television. Trump responded, ‘That’s because black people are too stupid to vote for me.’” (The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
This conversation, he noted, was reminiscent of an exchange that the two men had engaged in years earlier, after Nelson Mandela’s death. “[Trump] said to me, ‘Name one country run by a black person that’s not a shithole,’ and then he added, ‘Name one city,’” Cohen recalled, a statement that echoed the president’s alleged comments about African nations earlier this year. (White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied those comments at the time. She added that “no one here is going to pretend like the president is always politically correct—he isn’t.” She subsequently noted that it was “one of the reasons the American people love him.”)
Cohen also recounted a conversation he had with Trump in the late 2000s, while they were traveling to Chicago for a Trump International Hotel board meeting. “We were going from the airport to the hotel, and we drove through what looked like a rougher neighborhood. Trump made a comment to me, saying that only the blacks could live like this.” After the first few seasons of The Apprentice, Cohen recalled how he and Trump were discussing the reality show and past season winners. The conversation wended its way back to the show’s first season, which ended in a head-to-head between two contestants, Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson. “Trump was explaining his back-and-forth about not picking Jackson,” an African-American investment manager who had graduated from Harvard Business School. “He said, ‘There’s no way I can let this black f-g win.’” (Jackson told me that he had heard that the president made such a comment. “My response to President Trump is simple and Wakandan,” he said, referring to the fictional African country where Black Panther hails from. “‘Not today, colonizer!’”)
In retrospect, Cohen told me that he wishes he had quit the Trump Organization when he heard these offensive remarks. “I should have been a bigger person, and I should have left,” he said. He didn’t, he said, because he grew numb to the language and, in awe of the job, forgave his boss’s sins. Cohen, in fact, even defended the president publicly against charges of racism. Last year, he explicitly tweeted as much. Cohen explained that he defended the president because he thought the magnitude of the office would eventually force him to be more judicious with his words. “I truly thought the office would change him,” he said. But it hasn’t, Cohen continued. In fact, he said, it has exacerbated his rhetoric.
The evidence is redundant at this point, but still. That last graf is basically the story of American politics since it was clear that Trump was going to win the Republican nomination.