In an interview with The New York Times published Friday, retired "Late Show" host David Letterman weighed in on Donald Trump's surprisingly successful candidacy. The Republican presidential nominee frequently guested on Letterman's New York City-based CBS talk show — which ran for 22 seasons until 2015.
"I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time, and I always thought he was exactly what New York City needed to have: the big blowhard billionaire. 'By God, I’m Donald Trump, and I date models, and I put up buildings, and everything is gold,'" Letterman told the Times. "Nobody took him seriously, and people loved him when he would come on the show. I would make fun of his hair, I would call him a slumlord, I would make fun of his ties. And he could just take a punch like nothing. He was the perfect guest."
So now, he decides he’s running for president. And right out of the box, he goes after immigrants and how they’re drug dealers and they’re rapists. And everybody swallows hard. And they think, oh, well, somebody will take him aside and say, 'Don, don’t do that.' But it didn’t happen," he continued. "And then, I can remember him doing an impression, behind a podium, of a reporter for The New York Times who has a congenital disorder. And then I thought, if this was somebody else — if this was a member of your family or a next-door neighbor, a guy at work — you would immediately distance yourself from that person. And that’s what I thought would happen. Because if you can do that in a national forum, that says to me that you are a damaged human being. If you can do that, and not apologize, you’re a person to be shunned.
Letterman predicted Trump, despite his unlikely popularity heretofore, will ultimately lose next month's election.
"The thing about Trumpy was, I think people just were amused enough about him to keep him afloat in the polls," he explained, "because nobody wanted the circus to pull up and leave town."
On Hillary Clinton's using a clip from one of Trump's appearances on his show for an August attack ad, Letterman said he was "flattered."
"I was pleased," he said. "I felt like I still have a small voice in this. I thought it was good."
"If I had a show, I would have gone right after him," Letterman added, more or less criticizing "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon, who many complained humanized Trump in a softball interview with the real estate mogul last month. "I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t know anything about trade agreements. I don’t know anything about China devaluing the yuan. But if you see somebody who’s not behaving like any other human you’ve known, that means something. They need an appointment with a psychiatrist. They need a diagnosis and they need a prescription."
Read the full interview here.