Skip To Content
Get Our Newsletter

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe

Did Donald Trump’s ‘Jewish Wingman’ Use Bar Mitzvah Skills for Campaign Launch?

Donald Trump’s announcement of his presidential run in June 2015 will be remembered for the Republican nominee’s incendiary language — and his long descent on an escalator in Trump Tower.

But if Trump adviser Michael Cohen had carried the day, the event might have even more over-the-top, with balloons, models and a circus elephant, according to a story from Yahoo News.

Cohen boasted that the tricks for throwing the craziest bar mitzvahs could work just fine on the national political stage.

“Michael Cohen said, ‘I could do this. I plan the best bar mitzvahs,’ which was the exact mindset we needed,” former Trump aide Sam Nunberg told Yahoo News, referring to Cohen’s statements on the campaign announcement.

Cohen, a longtime attorney for Trump’s business, was part of a group of aides, including Nunberg and strategist Roger Stone, who wanted Trump to host as flamboyant an event as possible.

“We needed to make a splash, and we needed to not look like a conventional politician,” Stone told the news site.

“I was horsing around.. I said to Mr. Trump, ‘Do you think that the floors could handle a 5,000-pound elephant?’” Cohen remembered in the Yahoo interview.

Some thought Cohen was serious, and the idea got real discussion.

Ultimately, Trump and then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski vetoed the animals — and for that matter the clowns and models that others proposed.

But that didn’t mean that the future Republican nominee didn’t put on a show at the announcement.

Many of the audience members at the campaign event were paid actors, according to several reports in the press that said Cohen had found them.

But Cohen said that he and the Trump braintrust weren’t fully responsible for the fireworks at the event.

It was Trump himself who decide to ad-lib his way through his campaign speech, barely using the short official speech that Lewandowski had drafted for him.

And the group wasn’t responsible for Trump’s memorable escalator ride — that was the idea of the candidate, too.

“I’m going down the escalator. End of story,” Cohen recalled Trump saying. Cohen recommending arriving via elevator for security purposes.

In August, Cohen attracted mockery after he got into a scrap with a host on CNN over polls showing Trump trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls.

When the cable host, Brianna Keilar, observed to Cohen that his candidate was “down” in surveys, Cohen sounded incredulous, asking, “Says who?”

Keilar deadpanned a response that shot around the Internet, “Polls. Most of them. All of them.”

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon




    NY-12 Candidate Forum


    Aug 10, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    Will the last Jew left in New York’s congressional delegation be reelected? Will New York’s senior congresswoman receive another term? Or will one of the newcomers upend Manhattan politics?

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free under an Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives Creative Commons license as long as you follow our republishing guidelines, which require that you credit the Foward and retain our pixel. See our full guidelines for more information.

To republish, copy the HTML, which includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline, images, and credit to the Foward. Have questions? Please email us at

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.