Barbara Res worked for Donald Trump for over a decade, starting in 1980, serving as vice president, senior vice president and executive vice president of the Trump Organization. Trump often invokes his hiring of Res as proof that he’s long been a champion of women — something he’s has had to be quite defensive about lately, given his sexist attacks on the campaign trail, his immense unpopularity among women voters and his campaign manager’s mistreatment of female reporters.
Res, who chronicled her experience working for Trump in her book All Alone on the 68th Floor: How One Woman Changed the Face of Construction, spoke to Rolling Stone about her experiences, including the time Trump refused to eat lunch with an “ugly” female colleague and comments he made about her weight.
Were you surprised by the image Trump retweeted comparing Heidi Cruz’s appearance to Melania Trump’s, or did that seem pretty par for the course given what you saw of his attitudes toward women?
I was not surprised, no. Here’s a story: We were working on this big project on the West Side [the ill-fated Trump City, now known at Riverside South] and there were a lot of influential people opposing the project. We ended up trying to make an agreement with this consortium of people. There was a very, very important woman on the side of the group that was opposing us, and Donald had to have lunch with her. He said she was very, very ugly and he didn’t want to be seen sitting alone with her on his perch at the Plaza Hotel, so he made me go to the meeting with him.
Was the idea that if you were there it wouldn’t be construed as a date?
That [no one would think] he would be with such an ugly woman. It was just so ridiculous.
He always used to criticize men and women. He was very tough on fat people.
Do you remember anyone he targeted in particular?
There was one guy who worked for the city who Donald referred to as “the fat fuck,” but I don’t think you can print that. That’s how we grew to know him — not by his name, but as “the fat fuck.”
Also, we had a guy who was a lawyer for us and he was overweight, and Donald made a comment to him like, “You really like your Snickers, huh?” or something like that. He even said things like that to me. At one point I had gained a lot of weight, I was still working for him as a consultant, and he made a comment about my weight.
Did you ever see anyone stand up to him over a comment like that?
Over that kind of comment? No. Why would you? I mean, there is nothing to be gained from that — standing up to him on other things [maybe], but not that.
It sounds like he was kind of a bully.
Eh, not so much a bully — more of a loudmouth.
You also worked for Ivana Trump while they were married, right?
Yes. She was the president of the Plaza Hotel, and we were doing a massive renovation of it, and I worked for both of them. Donald was the owner and she was the president and they both had their own ideas about what to do there, and they usually didn’t agree. I was sort of torn between the two of them.
Do you feel like he stopped taking her seriously at some point?
It‘s not that he stopped taking her seriously so much as he, I think, resented her and decided that he was the boss and not her, and that he maybe gave her too much power.
Do you think that’s what doomed their relationship?
[laughs] Well, that and his fooling around.
Did you ever see him express sexism against Ivana?
Well, I mean, I know he made a joke about how he paid her $1 plus all the dresses she could wear or buy. He said stuff like that and she just sort of laughed it off.
You heard him joke that he paid her in dresses?
Yeah, that was on television and reported in the news and stuff like that. [Indeed, at a press conference announcing Ivana’s new position as the president of the Plaza, Trump was quoted as saying, “My wife, Ivana, is a brilliant manager. I will pay her $1 a year and all the dresses she can buy!” According to Vanity Fair, after the conference, Ivana called her friends crying and asked, “How can Donald humiliate me this way?” -Ed.]
I know he gave Ivana a hard time because toward the end of my being with her on the Plaza project, when we were finishing up the work and stuff, I went to see her and she was really under a tremendous amount of stress from dealing with him. I remember she was quite upset. I was not complaining about him, but I was sort of complaining about him — I said he’s giving me a hard time — and she said, “Barbara, you know, you only have to deal with him while you’re working here — I have to deal with him 24 hours a day.” And I sort of felt sorry for her because I could imagine the pressure he was putting her under. He used to fight with her and he would complain about her and stuff like that when we were doing the Plaza.
Can you tell me more about the problems you were having with him at that time?
They had to do with the job. I had a lot of problems with him during the period of building Trump Tower and [renovating] the Plaza. He was getting in trouble with his financiers and he was having this affair with Marla [Maples, his second wife] and he was very hard to deal with sometimes. There was this stone that he had selected — it was a fine stone, but it was a cheaper version of a very expensive stone, and when he saw it installed he got very angry and he yelled at me and he blamed me for making him look cheap and he said it was shit. He got very, very upset about that. I was surprised by how upset. But we would have fights like that all the time.
Did you feel he treated you differently than your male colleagues?
No, he did not treat me differently. He was tough on everybody. He was either the best or the worst, like he is today. I mean, everything is either the best or the worst, and sometimes he was really good and sometimes he was really bad, but he was tough on everybody. He didn’t treat women any differently from men, not back then. Again, you’re talking 25, 30 years ago.
Did his attitudes toward women change at some point?
You know, never until the Marla thing happened did I ever really hear him talking about women, and then after that he did talk about women in disparaging ways and he objectified women.
I think [that period] was a sea change in him. I think he started disparaging women a lot when he started going through his financial problems. He said that he was going off with women and he wasn’t paying attention to his businesses, and his brother and the executives at the hotels and the casinos were letting business go down and he wasn’t paying attention. He tied it to his dalliances with women.
He blamed the women he was cheating on his wife with for his financial problems?
Well, he sort of blames himself for not paying attention, but he said he couldn’t resist it because so many women were after him — that kind of thing.
You said earlier you didn’t feel he treated you any differently than your male colleagues. Do you know if you were paid the same amount as the men you worked with?
I don’t think I was — but I have to say, I don’t know if it was a female thing. I was paid pretty well, don’t get me wrong. But Donald had a thing about lawyers. See, everybody else was a lawyer, practically, that worked for him except for me and the sales people, and I think he paid the lawyers a little more than he paid me, but I can’t say that I think he discriminated against me because I was a woman. I don’t think that was true at the time. He wasn’t like that. He hired me because — he said this to me — he told me he thought I was a killer when he hired me from the Hyatt. And he said, “Men are better than women, but a good woman is better than ten good men.” That’s what he said, and I think he really believed. And he rightfully believed, and maybe it’s a sexist belief, that women have to prove themselves and men don’t, so women have to work harder.