Howard Stern is one of our greatest living interviewers, offering the profession a rare blend of candor and irreverence. But he apparently never considered himself a real “journalist” — or, at least, not until Donald Trump’s presidential run led to people digging up the GOP leader’s often salacious and disturbing quotes from The Howard Stern Show.
“When Trump actually started to win, I never would have imagined that I’d see newscasters quoting my show like it was the Bible. It was just so weird,” Stern said on Wednesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, alluding to the numerous times Trump appeared on his radio program from the early Nineties through 2015.
“And they were bringing up my name in the debates and all this other stuff. And it was kinda surreal. And then I said to myself, ‘Well, maybe I’m sort of a journalist.’ Journalism comes in strange places. I had all this wealth of material with Donald Trump, who, by the way, was the best radio guest ever because he would just say things that no one on the planet would say. And he’s still saying it!”
In recent interviews promoting his latest book, Howard Stern Comes Again, Stern has frequently cited Trump’s appeal as an interview guest — at least in his pre-politics days. In a recent New York Times piece, he called Trump a “fantastic” interview, “as unguarded as any human being that has ever been on my show.” But after Trump’s campaign began, “he became one of the worst radio guests.”
“He was maybe one of the best, top-five guests of all-time,” Stern told Stephen Colbert in May. “Why? He was wild. I thought I was wild. He would come on and start assigning numbers to women, evaluating them, [rating them] one through 10 — who does that? … He would say anything that came into his mind. He was completely unfiltered. He was talking about [how] his daughter was the most attractive woman he’d ever met and how much he thought she was hot.”
After Trump’s presidential campaign gained momentum, Stern tried — and failed — to book a radio interview with Hillary Clinton, whom he supported in the 2016 election. In his view, an unguarded, intimate talk on his show could have revealed to voters a new side of the Democratic candidate.
“‘Fuck policy. Let’s just talk about your life,'” he told Rolling Stone, conjuring potential questions like a true journalist. “‘What was your first dream? What did you want? What was the relationship like with your parents?’ Whatever it is, more of a human-interest approach. I feel blessed that this happens in this studio. People forget there’s a microphone. They’re not as on guard. For whatever reason, I’m able to make people relax.
“I felt there could have been a magical moment for her,” he continued. “Would she have won the election after this interview? Probably not. I mean, I don’t know. But what did they say? There were 70,000 votes that could have swung the Electoral College?”