OTR Interviews

Bill Maher, American exceptionalism and America the 'stupid country,' according to Donald Trump

'The Donald' takes on the comedian's view that we need to 'get over' the idea of American exceptionalism and Pres. Obama's private sector gaffe


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 11, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: TV host Bill Maher has a message for America: Get over yourself! So what does he mean by that? Here's what Maher said in an online segment of his show.


BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Would it be better if the country just got over this notion of American exceptionalism? Oh, I think it would. I mean, this is...


MAHER: This is -- by the way, this is one reason why I say -- and people laugh at me, but I would say in 100 years, this country will be Mormon. It's a stupid religion and a stupid country. They were made for each other.


MAHER: And I tell you, one of the things Americans are going to love about Mormonism, when they find out about it, is that, first of all, Jesus is an American. Jesus is an American in Mormonism. And they love the idea that Mormons embrace more than anybody that we are the super-duper star-spangled best country ever! And if we have any flaw, it's that we make other countries feel bad because our awesomeness is so overwhelming.



VAN SUSTEREN: Donald Trump joins us. Donald, you just heard what Bill Maher had to say about -- let me talk about two topics. One is the issue of exceptionalism and the United States. Tell me your response to him.

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (Via Telephone): Well, I have a lot of responses. Exceptionalism can be wonderful. I wish we were exceptional. We'd like to be exceptional. I think we can be exceptional again. And I expect that if Mitt Romney becomes president, I think we really should be an exceptional country and we should be the country.

When he mentions the fact that we're a stupid country, I assume he's talking about how Obama is running it because we have become a country that is not very well respected, and in many ways, is stupid. When you look at what's happening with OPEC, when you look at what's happening with China, the way they're just stripping our money from us like we're babies, we are really becoming a stupid country.

I know that's not the way he meant it. But I guess I would take it differently. That's the way Obama is running the country.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I know a lot of people are upset by Bill Maher saying this. And you know, I'm a little bit sort of curious by that. I mean, he's a standup comic. No one thinks that he's making some sort of profound announcement about the direction of foreign policy.

If he were to look at the United States in terms of exceptionalism, I know that you take issue with how the Obama administration is running the country, but in general, the United States has been providing aid in so many different sectors across every single continent in the world.

We do agriculture, economic, education, women's rights, human trafficking, water and sanitation, earthquake, tsunami help, any crisis -- I mean, we are -- I mean, we do take the lead in so many things, so that while, you know, there's that -- some are saying that we're not as exceptional as we have been before, we are nonetheless quite exceptional as a country.

TRUMP: Well, and there's also aid that this country can't afford. We're giving aid to others that we really can't afford. You look at us and we are up to $16 trillion in debt. We're borrowing from the Chinese and others. And it's just aid we should probably in many cases not give. We give aid to some people that can't stand us. They go around and they take advantage of us, stupidly for us, but they take advantage of the country. But, again, it's aid in many cases we can't afford.

VAN SUSTEREN: But that is a slightly different issue, how do we exercise our exceptionalism. There is a great debate whether we should give a particular amount to a particular country for something. But nonetheless at the core of this is the United States does remain exceptional in the sense we have -- we have a willingness to try to make the world better, I mean, as in, sometimes even to our personal detriment.

TRUMP: I think that is great. In the past, it was great when we were a rich country. We're not a rich country anymore. A lot of bad politicians have seen to it we're not rich. When you are not rich, when you don't have money, when you have to go borrow the money, we can't afford to do what we are doing. We are doing so many different things. We give money to countries that laugh at us behind our back and even laugh at us to our face. So there are many things we could be doing much differently. The potential enormous, but we are doing things that are laughed at and scoffed at.

VAN SUSTEREN: You talk about laughing and more of the controversy about Bill Maher. Let me repeat, he is a standup comic. He does satire. His whole thing is comedy. But he refers to Mormonism, the religion of the Republican nominee, as being stupid. And that is just old fashioned bigotry. Your thoughts -- I mean, you know, he is laughing at it and he has the crowd laughing with him. Your thoughts on that?

TRUMP: It's tough stuff when you say that. He is a comic, but that is really not funny. And frankly, it's amazing. And if the other side referred to someone's religion, as an example if a nice conservative Republican said something about another religion, I won't even say which one, but let's say another religion, there would be hell to pay on the front page of every newspaper tomorrow. Here is something that is hardly being covered. Although you're covering it, but it's hardly being covered.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's interesting when the crowd laughs, it's hard to -- people oftentimes don't realize they are being bigots if they get people laughing with them, other bigots I guess.

TRUMP: I know Bill Maher. He is doing his thing. He is having a good time doing it. He is doing well with it, I guess. But it's a tough statement. Frankly, if somebody else made that statement, and certainly if a conservative Republican made a like statement about somebody else's religion there would be hell to pay. It would be all over the place. It would be the end of that person's career as you know it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me turn to another subject. Last week the president said and everyone is stomping all over him about this. He said in part the private sector is doing fine. I'm curious what you think the president is thinking today about what he said?

TRUMP: Well, he is getting hit hard on that statement, because even his own support is saying what are you doing? What are you saying? Calling at it big gaffe, a major gaffe. I heard some people saying it's earth-shattering. I don't think it is earth-shattering, but it certainly was a mistake he made in saying it. It's not doing well.

We're at 8.2, but the 8.2 unemployment is not a real number. The real number is 15 or 16 percent. Some people say it's 21 percent. But the real number, they rig it up so you have the best of all worlds. You look for a job, you stop looking for a job and they take you out of the stats. It doesn't work that way.

The real number is 15 or 16 percent. It could be 21 percent. That is not doing fine. He is taking heat for it. It listened to it and I heard it I was surprised by the statement. But his own groups picked it up and they didn't like it. He is taking a lot of heat.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was it a gaffe, or is it something that he intended to say something his economic philosophy and how he views the economy and who he sees as sort of winning and losing, I mean, is it part of his economic ideology or a misstatement and he regrets today and seeks to clear it up?

TRUMP: I really watched -- I was watching as he made it. Frankly, I think it was a gaffe because his body language is very confused and very confusing after he made the statement. I don't think he felt good about the statement after he made it and I think he would have liked to take it back. So I think it was a gaffe, absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: You were very busy tweeting today. One thing you mentioned is that another Barack Obama credit downgrade coming in part. Do you fear a credit downgrade coming? What did you mean by that?

TRUMP: We are going up to $16 trillion very soon. It will be higher than that before he gets finished. When you have in the 20s and 21, $22 trillion, you are talking about a downgrade no matter how you cut it. Something has to be done. You have to cut the debt. You can't keep going. We're going to be a large scale version of Spain or Greece or another number of countries that are doing very badly. Let's see what happens in terms of the recession. "Recession" may be a nice word.

I just closed on Dural today. I bought it in Miami, a big deal, fantastic land in Miami with hotel units and got courses, a very important thing. I am putting a lot of people to work. I'm proud of it. I think it will be an amazing place and amazing resort but I want to see the country do well so everything does well. Right now frankly the country isn't doing well, and the price I paid is reflective of that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Last question. Another tweet today, and because you have been very successful with "The Apprentice, let me ask you. It says one of the tweets CNN and MSNBC need big help in the ratings. I can tell them where they are going wrong. I'm curious, what is it that you think they are doing where they are "going wrong"?

TRUMP: They are really wrong and they are really doing badly. By the way, you folks are doing very well. I'm very proud of you. But they are really doing badly. Honestly, I wouldn't say it to them and I wouldn't say it publicly, but if they called me I would certainly give them ideas that would be better than what they are doing right now. They are so far off. MSNBC is so far off and CNN is so far off. And it's actually sad to see it.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's not just fair for us to give them a swat right now. Give them a tip.

TRUMP: I don't want to do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: You are not going to give them a tip?

TRUMP: I know some of the people over there. I actually know the people at MSNBC in terms of the top people because I have "Apprentice" on NBC, and I know them well and have a lot of respect. Should they call me I would give them ideas a lot better than what they have on now. All you have to do is watch MSNBC and you can be a seven-year-old child and tell them what they are doing wrong. It's pretty pathetic.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the appetite for the news change or -- appetite for news changing or people sick of politics?

TRUMP: I think their politics are wrong. In politic politics in many cases are perceived as dishonest so people aren't trusting.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dishonest or you just don't agree with them?

TRUMP: I don't think it's that. I think people aren't trusting them. When they don't trust, you don't watch. You had the great Walter Cronkite. When you watched him, you trusted him. He was like your father. It never forget, to me he was the ultimate. Edward R. Murrow was great but I didn't see him. I watched Walter Cronkite. He was something special. You watched him and you trusted him and you believed in him. Therefore, you watched. With MSNBC, I don't think people believe it. They look at what they are saying. They don't have confidence in him and therefore they don't watch.

VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't there room for a diverse opinion on all sorts of issues, whether political -- I guess not -- the facts are the facts whatever they are. But a lot of the political discussion, doesn't it enrich to us have a diverse argument about, or a diverse debate?

TRUMP: Diversity is great, diverse debate is fantastic. You have to be believable on both sides. And in certain cases they're not believable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Donald, thank you for joining us.

TRUMP: OK, thank you, Greta.