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Donald Trump counterprogrammed his own convention with an interview on the Golf Channel

Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

On Monday night, Donald Trump enjoyed a lengthy primetime showcase for his business pursuits and political ambitions, in which he talked about his rise to fame and fortune in the 1970s, waxed nostalgic about his father, bragged about his real estate developments, and assailed his critics.

I speak, of course, of Trump’s interview with retired Northern Irish pro golfer David Feherty on the Golf Channel.

No, seriously: As the Republican National Convention was unfolding on every cable news channel — highlighting stories of people killed in Benghazi and by undocumented immigrants — Trump counterprogrammed his own event by appearing in a prerecorded interview about golf.

And while naturally Feherty asked about Trump’s presidential campaign, a big portion of the show was indeed about golf. Early on, Feherty wanted to talk about Turnberry, Trump’s golf resort in Scotland. Trump gushed about how well he fixed up the course’s holes: "Especially hole 9, hole 10, and hole 11. Hole 11 was initially not so exciting, but now it’s one of the most beautiful holes in the world."

Feherty also asked about the PGA’s decision to move a tour even away from Doral, Trump's resort in Miami, to Mexico City next year. That gave Trump a perfect opportunity to blend his golf course braggadocio with his loathing of Mexico: "Dural has gotten rave reviews. We blew it up, 800 acres right in the middle of Miami. … Sadly Mexico made an offer that was a lot of money. Mexico’s taking a lot of our business; the players are unhappy about it."

From there, the conversation pivoted to Trump’s childhood and family. The candidate bragged that many of his friends have "smart children who get into drugs and alcohol," whereas "my children, I’ve really been very proud of them."

Throughout, Feherty treated Trump more deferentially than just about any media interviewer I’ve seen. At one point, he noted that critics have called Trump "authoritarian, racist, and misogynistic — I don’t even know what some of these words mean!" He added, admiringly, "A lot of people would’ve withered under that kind of fire!"

When Trump bragged about his status as a political outsider, Feherty agreed, "People are fed up with politicians."

Feherty asked Trump a battery of easy rapid-fire questions:

  • "Boxers, briefs, or commando?" (Boxers, for what it’s worth.)
  • "BMW or Jaguar?" (Jaguar.)
  • "Early to bed or early to rise?" (Early to rise.)
  • "Favorite song?" ("Anything by Elton John.")
  • "Favorite movie?" (Citizen Kane.)
  • "Guilty pleasure?" ("I can’t tell you that. I’d be out of the world of politics.")
  • "Mulligans?" ("A nice thing … but only with friends.")
  • "Racial profiling?" ("It’s becoming necessary … it’s frankly common sense.")
  • "Viagra?" ("I wouldn’t know about that, of course, but it keeps people going.")
  • "Wall Street?" ("Really good.")

And for his part, Trump appreciated the easy touch; when he attacked the mainstream media, he made sure to tell Feherty, "I don’t mean you."

Naturally, the conversation wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of golfing as a presidential activity. Trump explained that he didn’t agree with critics of President Obama’s golf playing, on the grounds that it’s important for dealmaking: "Play with your enemies, and even your enemies become friends."

Trump bemoaned the fact that he would have to give up use of his own private jet for Air Force One ("that’d be a very sad thing") and attacked the administration for spending $3 billion on new Air Force Ones ("You think I could’ve negotiated a better deal?" he asked, as Feherty agreed, insisting he could’ve bargained it down to $2.5 billion).

Perhaps the most startling moment of the interview came when Feherty repeated a lengthy quote from Theodore Roosevelt, about the necessity that every immigrant become "in every facet an American, and nothing but an American" as a condition of staying.

The quote has become a standby of anti-immigrant activists, and Feherty — not only a journalist but an immigrant to the United States — repeated it not to set up a question, but just merely to ask what Trump thought of it. Trump, naturally, thought it was just great, thanked Feherty for introducing him to it, and suggested he might include it in future speeches.

At the episode’s conclusion, Feherty concluded, "Whether he’s hired or fired in November, Donald Trump does it his way — and that’s the American way."

On a night when the Republican convention’s speakers tended to mention Trump as an afterthought if at all, the most pro-Trump programming to be found wasn’t on C-SPAN or Fox News, but on the Golf Channel.