'Get Me Roger Stone' Profiles The Man Who's Wanted Trump To Run Since 1987

May 12, 2017
Originally published on May 12, 2017 8:34 am

If you haven't heard of the self-described dirty trickster Roger Stone, you're missing out. For decades, he's worked as a political adviser to Donald Trump, and some credit him with getting Trump into the Oval Office. Daniel DiMauro, Dylan Bank and Morgan Pehme directed the new documentary Get Me Roger Stone.

"He was the very first person to suggest to Donald Trump that he should run for the presidency back in 1987," Pehme says. "And then he spent the next 29 years cultivating Trump's candidacy until he was ultimately triumphant."

But Stone has touched more than just one presidency. Pehme says his film is about "how indispensable Roger has been to virtually every bigwig in Republican politics since Nixon. Roger was the youngest person called before the Watergate grand jury when he was all of 19 years old. And president after president after president — and more so than any president, Donald Trump — have always said, 'Get me Roger Stone.' "

Pehme's documentary is available on Netflix starting Friday.


Interview Highlights

On what got him interested in Stone

There were two things that really drew us to him. The first was that he embraces infamy. You know, there's a lot of people in politics who do horrible things, but they paper over their misdeeds and they try to come out absolutely pure.

Roger is the antithesis of that. He absolutely wears his infamy, and is only too happy to be the despicable villain that everybody hates. And so we thought that would make for a fascinating character to center a documentary on.

Roger is this malevolent Forrest Gump. When anything dark and sinister is happening in our politics, Roger inevitably is lurking in the shadows with some sort of relationship to the misdeeds that had been done.

On Stone's early and unwavering belief in Trump as a candidate

I think he believed from day one that Trump was a legitimate candidate. Now, certainly Trump's previous flirtations with running for the presidency — it's hard to look at them as anything other than publicity stunts. But Roger was always dead serious about the effectiveness that Trump could convey as a candidate.

The outsider image, that he was going to go in and he was going to smash the status quo in Washington; the successful businessman who would bring that type of acumen to the White House that was sorely missing in Washington; and then the larger-than-life charisma that Trump exemplifies. Those were, in Roger's mind, winning components. And for years, Roger was ridiculed, and we thought it was absolutely fanciful for the first many years that we spent with him that the idea that Trump could be a legitimate candidate. But Roger consistently sung the same tune and ultimately he was completely vindicated.

On whether Stone should get credit for getting Trump elected

Absolutely. The person who deserves the most credit is Donald Trump. After Trump, the person who deserves the most credit is Roger. Roger came up with the idea for the Trump presidential run, was Trump's closest political adviser for the last three decades, fashioned his political philosophy, and for the first year of the Trump campaign in this current cycle, it was really a three-man operation, led by Roger.

Other people like the Steve Bannons, the Kellyanne Conways, they were essentially Johnny-come-latelies. They came in the final months and they got a whole bunch of credit for it, but they didn't lay the groundwork the way that Roger had.

On critics who say that Stone has encouraged people to lie and encouraged the creation of fake news to get candidates elected

Those things are not only said about him, but I think that Roger himself would admit that most of those things are true. What we wanted to do was to give Roger the opportunity to tell his own story.

What was so interesting from our perspective was to see how Roger perceives the world — how Roger would answer to the fact that his megalobbying firm in the '80s was known as "The Torturers' Lobby" because they had a cottage industry in representing third-world dictators who were absolutely murderous, horrible, repugnant people. Roger is only too happy to say that, "I'm really happy with our lobbying company because we made a lot of money."

Radio producer Noor Wazwaz, radio editor Miranda Kennedy and digital producers Nicole Cohen and Beth Novey contributed to this story.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So if you haven't heard of the self-described dirty trickster Roger Stone, you might be missing out. And it is not just Stone who says so.

MORGAN PEHME: We thought that Roger being a pot-smoking bodybuilding dandy and that he and his wife are swingers, that we thought this is an incredible character to tell a story that in any other context might be kind of boring.

GREENE: That is Morgan Pehme. He's one of the directors of a new film called "Get Me Roger Stone." Stone is a Republican political consultant, and he is infamous for his ruthless tactics. The new film was initially going to be about the degradation of our democracy, but it turned into a film about the making of President Trump, which Roger Stone was involved in.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "GET ME ROGER STONE")

ROGER STONE: Those who say I have no soul, those who say I have no principles are losers. Those are bitter losers. Everything I have done, everything I have worked for is to propel ideas, any political philosophy that I want to see dominant in government.

GREENE: That is the voice of Roger Stone in the film about him. I asked director Morgan Pehme what first got him interested in this guy.

PEHME: There were two things that really drew us to him. The first was that he embraces infamy. It's, you know, there's a lot of people in politics who do horrible things, but they paper over their misdeeds, and they try to come out absolutely pure.

Roger is the antithesis of that. He absolutely wears his infamy and is only too happy to be the despicable villain that everybody hates. And so we thought that would make for a fascinating character to center a documentary on.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "GET ME ROGER STONE")

STONE: Yeah, I live a pretty Machiavellian life. And I'm a skeptic. I tend to believe the worst of people because I understand human nature. Human nature has never changed. That's why one of Stone's rules is that hate is a stronger motivator than love. That's because it is.

PEHME: Roger is this malevolent Forrest Gump. When anything dark and sinister is happening in our politics, Roger inevitably is lurking in the shadows with some sort of relationship to the misdeeds that had been done.

GREENE: I told the director that he had to tell our listeners what the title "Get Me Roger Stone" refers to.

PEHME: "Get Me Roger Stone" is about how indispensable Roger has been to virtually every bigwig in Republican politics since Nixon. Roger was the youngest person called before the Watergate grand jury when he was all of 19 years old. And president after president after president, and more so than any president Donald Trump, have always said, get me Roger Stone.

GREENE: When does he realize that Donald Trump, you know, in his view is presidential material?

PEHME: I think he believed from day one that Trump was a legitimate candidate. Now, certainly Trump's previous flirtations with running for the presidency, it's hard to look at them as anything other than publicity stunts.

But Roger was always dead serious about the effectiveness that Trump could convey as a candidate, the outsider image that he was going to go in, and he was going to smash the status quo in Washington, the successful businessman who would bring that type of acumen to the White House that was sorely missing in Washington. And then the larger than life charisma that Trump exemplifies, those were in Roger's mind winning components.

And for years, Roger was ridiculed. And, you know, we thought it was absolutely fanciful for the first many years that we spent with him that the idea that Trump could be a legitimate candidate. But Roger consistently sung the same tune, and ultimately he was completely vindicated.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "GET ME ROGER STONE")

STONE: This is the manifestation of a dream I've had since 1988. And I've always thought Donald Trump had the size and the courage and the [expletive] to become president of the United States.

GREENE: There are some who do give Roger Stone credit for electing Donald Trump, including Roger Stone himself. Should he get credit?

PEHME: Absolutely. The person who deserves the most credit is Donald Trump. After Trump, the person who deserves the most credit is Roger. Roger came up with the idea for the Trump presidential run, was Trump's closest political adviser for the last three decades, fashioned his political philosophy. And for the first year of the Trump campaign in this current cycle, it was really a three-man operation led by Roger.

Other people, kind of like the Steve Bannons, the Kellyanne Conways, they were essentially Johnny-come-latelies (ph). They came in the final months, and they got a whole bunch of credit for it, but they didn't lay the groundwork the way that Roger had.

GREENE: This film is at many moments fun. At times, you can forget that many of Roger Stone's critics, they think he has encouraged people to lie, to create fake news in order to get candidates to win. I mean, I guess it's just worth reminding people of what his critics say.

PEHME: Those things are not only said about him, but I think that Roger himself would admit that most of those things are true. What we wanted to do was to give Roger the opportunity to tell his own story.

What was so interesting from our perspective was to see how Roger perceives the world, how Roger would answer to the fact that his mega lobbying firm in the '80s was known as the Torturers' Lobby because they had a cottage industry in representing third world dictators who were absolutely murderous, horrible, repugnant people. Roger is only too happy to say that I'm really happy with our lobbying company because we made a lot of money.

GREENE: For many of the interview moments with Roger Stone, there was a martini on the table next to him, but it's - was it gin or vodka? Let me start with that.

PEHME: It's vodka martini. And he actually learned his martini recipe from one of his idols and mentors, Richard Nixon.

GREENE: (Laughter) That's amazing.

PEHME: I do know that Roger can hold his liquor, but he's been known to order a martini and actually pay off the bartender to fill it with water, so particularly when he's drinking with reporters that he gets the reporters really drunk, and then he can feign drunkenness to take advantage of that.

GREENE: Oh, my goodness.

PEHME: That's how devious he is, David.

GREENE: Was there vodka in there or water when you were talking to him?

PEHME: There was absolutely vodka, I can attest to that.

GREENE: Well, listen. It's been great talking to you. And best of luck with the film.

PEHME: Thank you so much, David.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BLACK KEYS SONG, "GOLD ON THE CEILING")

GREENE: Getting reporters drunk is a tactic that is just plain wrong. The documentary "Get Me Roger Stone" releases on Netflix today and in theaters in Los Angeles and New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.