Donald Trump's deepest fear is public humiliation, 2014 interviews suggest

Donald Trump at a 2016 presidential debate
(Image credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

You may have noticed that Donald Trump loves to win and really, really hates to lose. Well, The New York Times now has pseudo-scientific proof to back up your observation. And it turns out, what really burdens Trump, says Times reporter Michael Barbaro, is "his deep-seated fear of public embarrassment." There's quite a bit of evidence for this, including the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner, but Barbaro and his colleagues listened to more than five hours of interviews Trump gave to biographer Michael D'Antonio in 2014, plus conversations with first wife Ivana Trump and Trump's children. D'Antonio, who doesn't support Trump's candidacy, made them available to the Times.

"The recordings reveal a man who is fixated on his own celebrity, anxious about losing his status, and contemptuous of those who fall from grace," Barbaro writes, and the Times embedded some snippets so you can judge for yourself. "Trump makes clear just how difficult it is for him to imagine — let alone accept — defeat." In the interviews, Trump says he loves to fight, doesn't have any heroes, doesn't "like talking about the past," and doesn't want to think about the meaning of his life. "I don't like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see," he said. He feels the same way about others, too. "For the most part," he said, "you can't respect people because most people aren't worthy of respect."

Trump told D'Antonio that he "never had a failure... because I always turned a failure into a success." That will be tested on Nov. 8, but other than rebounding from bankruptcies, there is other evidence of his lemons-to-lemonade prowess in the tapes, including a story told by Ivana Trump where she inadvertently humiliated him on the ski slopes after they first started dating and he stormed away leaving gear behind; she still married him. On Monday, Trump told The New York Times that the recordings are "pretty old and pretty boring stuff. Hope people enjoy it." You can, if you like, at The New York Times.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.