Donald Trump's rise to front-runner in the Republican primary race has largely been fueled by support from poor and working-class voters. On Thursday, Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" dug up an interview in which Trump appears to call those same people "morons."
Trevor Noah, host of "The Daily Show," unearthed a 1999 New York Times article titled "Liberties; Trump Shrugged" (a reference to Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged"), in which Trump discusses his political ambitions and the possibility of him running for president. Noah pointed to a few quotes that he said highlight the apparent hypocrisy of Trump now mounting a so-far-successful presidential campaign on the backs of working-class voters.
''My entire life, I've watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn't the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office," Trump told the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. "How smart can they be? They're morons."
Noah mocked Trump for the quote, which the comedian interpreted as a slight against all poor people. "Donald Trump told the newspaper that poor people, the people voting for him now in droves, are morons," said Noah. "That's like something a cartoonishly evil villain would say."
The "Daily Show" host highlighted another quote in the same interview.
"There's a perception that voters like poverty," said Trump. "I don't like poverty. Usually, there's a reason for poverty. Do you want someone who gets to be president and that's literally the highest-paying job he's ever had?"
Noah suggested that Trump's implication that a presidential candidate should have previously held a more lucrative position in business amounted to plutocracy.
Watch Trevor Noah discuss Donald Trump's 1999 interview below:
However, Trump's comments in the New York Times interview are not necessarily inconsistent with his message on the campaign trail. It could be easily argued that Trump was not disparaging poor people in general, but simply the idea of electing someone who has not been financially successful before taking office. The idea that smarter, savvier —and financially successful — leaders would be able to negotiate better trade agreements and economic policy on behalf of working-class Americans has been a pillar of Trump's platform.
"I'm totally against the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] trade bill for a number of reasons," Trump told supporters while announcing his candidacy June 16, 2015. "I'm a free trader, but the problem with free trade is you need really talented people to negotiate for you. If you don't have people that know business, not just a political hack that got the job because he made a contribution to a campaign, free trade is terrible.
"Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people," Trump continued, "but we have people that are stupid. We have people that are controlled by special interests, and it's just not going to work."
Whether Trump's 1999 interview constitutes hypocrisy or one of the seeds of his current message is probably a subjective question. Trump continues to win over poor and working -class voters en route to a commanding delegate lead in the Republican race.