The Slatest

Donald Trump Wears Red Hats When He’s Cranky, According to This Bonkers Profile of His Butler

Mar-a-Lago, where Tony Senecal served as butler for decades.

Evan Agostini/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Jason Horowitz of the New York Times profiled Tony Senecal, the former longtime butler of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Senecal had previously given a surreal interview on CNN, but while that encounter was, as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl puts it, “bizarre and pointless,” the Times’ article is full of helpful revelations about the GOP front-runner. Though it deserves to be read in full, here are a few things you’ll learn about Trump:


The Colors of Trump’s Hats Are Important

After making his way through various newspapers in the morning, Trump “would emerge hours later, in khakis, a white golf shirt and baseball cap. If the cap was white, the staff noticed, the boss was in a good mood. If it was red, it was best to stay away.” Senecal offers no indication in the article as to how the staff might have interpreted the black, blue, and camouflage caps available in the Trump campaign’s online store.


Trump’s Views Are Contagious

In one perfect paragraph, Horowitz captures the scope of Trump’s ideas and intentions, as glimpsed through the candidate’s erstwhile butler, writing:

Mr. Senecal, with horn-rimmed glasses, a walrus mustache and a white pocket kerchief in his black jacket, seems to reflect his boss’s worldview: He worries about attacks by Islamic terrorists and is critical of Mr. Trump’s ex-wives.


Some of those complaints show up later in the article. Ivana Trump was finicky about cleanliness and apparently liked to order the gardeners away so that she could swim naked in peace. And Marla Maples “really didn’t belong here,” Senecal says, though he doesn’t explain why.

Trump’s Totally a Golf Cheat

As Ben Terris has documented in the Washington Post, it’s all but a matter of public record that Trump cheats at golf. Trump himself denies those allegations, and has publicly bragged about the power of his swing. But Senecal off-handedly confirms that he would exaggerate distances when he and Trump were hitting balls together, indicating, Horowitz suggests, that the candidate “was perhaps not quite as strong as he imagined.”


Trump Doesn’t Care Much for the Details of Art History


When Trump’s daughter Ivanka was a child, she slept in a bedroom with “nursery rhyme-themed tiles.” Trump would claim to guests that they had been “made by a young Walt Disney,” earning disapproving complaints from Senecal, who would “protest that it was not true.” Significantly, when Senecal attempted to retire from his role as butler, Trump kept him on as house historian, despite their apparent disagreements of the provencance of the decor.

Trump Is Generous, but Arbitrarily So

Trump would sometimes peel “$100 bills from a wad in his pocket to give to the groundskeepers,” though he would only do so “when the mood struck him.” Senecal claims that the workers on the estate “love” Trump, but “not for that, they just love him.” Senecal offers little insight into their salaries or working conditions under ordinary circumstances. He does, however, suggest in passing that local hires just aren’t up to snuff compared with those from other countries.

Trump Doesn’t Read Many Books

Though the Mar-a-Largo library was “filled with rare first-edition books … no one in the family ever read” them. Trump later converted the library into a bar, which prominently features a portrait of the man himself in place of the denser status symbols that once lined its walls. The image appears at the top of the Times’ story.