While Donald Trump spent the day preening at the Republican conference, one individual with rare insight into the presidential candidate's character has made explosive claims.

Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of Trump's 1987 autobiography The Art of the Deal, opened up for the first time in an interview with the New Yorker for its July 25 edition, and the results aren't pretty.

The former magazine reporter said he painted the business tycoon in the most positive light he could - but if he could write his book again, he would call it The Sociopath.

End of civilisation

"I put lipstick on a pig," said Schwartz, whose book catapulted Trump to stratospheric fame. "I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is."


He decided to speak out, he said, after noticing that Trump seemed to have convinced himself that he had written the book alone, despite Schwartz spending 18 months by his side researching the work.

"If he could lie about that on Day One - when it was so easily refuted - he is likely to lie about anything," said the writer.

By June, he had come to the conclusion that he would never be able to forgive himself if the mythologised Trump he had helped to create was elected President of the United States.

"I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilisation."

Farce of fumbling and bumbling

Schwartz described how he was hired after writing a deeply unflattering article about Trump, which described how the real estate mogul had unsuccessfully tried to evict rent-controlled tenants from a building by hiring homeless people to harass them.

It called him a "fugue of failure, a farce of fumbling and bumbling" and was accompanied by an unattractive photo. Incredibly, Trump was delighted, hanging it on the wall of his office and sending a letter to Schwartz thanking him for it.

"He was obsessed with publicity, and he didn't care what you wrote," says Schwartz today. "He wanted to be seen as a tough guy, and he loved being on the cover."

The writer, now a productivity consultant, says the presidential candidate only cares about money and power. Photo / AP
The writer, now a productivity consultant, says the presidential candidate only cares about money and power. Photo / AP

No attention span

One of the hardest things about writing the book, said the ghostwriter, was that Trump couldn't sit still and concentrate.

He was bored, impatient and restless during interviews, and draining to be around, according to Schwartz. "It's impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time," he said.

The writer said he doubted Trump had read an entire book in his life, preferring to gain knowledge through short TV clips.

His short attention span had left him with "a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance", added Schwartz.

Power and money

More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true."

He regularly lied about how well his properties were doing, and planted stories in the media under fake names, and felt absolutely no remorse.

Schwartz wrote in his journal: "Trump stands for many of the things I abhor: his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money."

Trump responded by calling Schwartz "disloyal" and a publicity seeker. He maintains he wrote The Art of the Deal himself, although the publishers say he didn't.

It doesn't really matter to Trump. He has bigger fish to fry. He's all about status, according to Schwartz.

"If he could run for emperor of the world, he would."