Wayne Barrett, an intrepid investigative reporter who spent 37 years chronicling New York City figures like Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani at The Village Voice, died today at age 71. The Times reports he succumbed to complications of lung cancer and interstitial lung disease.
Barrett, who initially hailed from Virginia, was notably the first investigative reporter to doggedly cover Trump. When Barrett, who joined the Voice in 1973, took over the Runnin' Scared column in 1978, Trump was a young developer and relative unknown. Barrett's cover story on Trump, which was published in January 1979, was "the first detailed examination of Trump’s business practices to appear in the press," according to The Voice.
Wayne Barrett, the greatest investigative reporter I've ever known, a guiding, goading inspiration to generations of reporters, has died.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) January 19, 2017
In 1992, Barrett wrote the definitive biography on Trump: Trump: The Deals and the Downfall. It was republished last year with the title, Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention, with an added introduction about Trump's presidential run.
Wayne Barrett was the first investigative reporter to cover Trump extensively. His biography of him is a window. https://t.co/2PIPRWQDfk
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 19, 2017
— Dave Gilson (@daudig) January 19, 2017
Barrett covered Trump, as well as former Mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani (on whom he also wrote biographies), extensively throughout his tenure at The Voice. He he was laid off from the Voice in 2011, a move he told WNYC's Brian Lehrer, "certainly was a surprise to me."
Barrett continued to report and file op-ed pieces on Trump throughout his presidential run. In October, he spoke with POLITICO about the videotape that caught Trump bragging about grabbing women "by the pussy" in 2005:
The New Yorker spoke with him
I think we’ve got a very good preview of what the next several weeks will be like in the debate last night. I thought when he literally prowled the platform or the stage last night, we got a picture of what it’s like in his bedroom while he’s tweeting at 3 a.m. He was barking in the ugliest fashion, saying the ugliest things. And from the moment he got out there, he played the role of a victim. He now considers himself a victim of the national media, primarily, and a bit of the Republican establishment that abandoned him overnight, and I think he’s a very dangerous man for the next three or four weeks.
We have seen what kind of polarization he can evoke over the course of 15 or 16 months, but I’m afraid that he’s going to attempt to deepen that in profound ways in the coming weeks. As recently as the convention, he tried to cool down those who said “lock her up,” and now he’s saying he would lock her up and even describing the way in which he would do it.
So I think that what is really dangerous is, over the course of the next few weeks, he’s going to push every button he can, and the primary button that he can push is racism. That’s been the undercurrent of the campaign throughout. Believe it or not, you can be more explicit about it than he has been so far, and he may well go down that path. And it’s a very dangerous time because he has still a substantial number of Americans who support him, and where he takes them is really quite threatening.
right after Trump was elected:
When I visited him on Wednesday, he never left his bed. He was still fiery, but sombre. “Donald just has no interest in information. He has no genuine interest in policy. He operates by impulse. And I don’t see any of that changing,” he said. “Why would you change it? You got to be President of the United States. This personality has prospered in two universes now—business and politics—without discipline. Why would you acquire it at seventy?”...
...As Clinton finished her speech, he turned down the sound. “I don’t know what she means by ‘open mind,’ “ he said. “I don’t know how you can look at the guy with an open mind and ignore everything he’s said and done up until now. You don’t look at him with an open mind; you look at him with all the information you can assemble, and you try to get him to not do the terrible things he promised.”A POLITICO story on Trump's transition
published this week noted that, "Wayne Barrett, the dean of Trump reporters, could not participate because of illness."
Wayne Barrett -The Village Voice, Dies at 71 https://t.co/qDyXXs5RWL Mr. Barrett on Journalists, "We are detectives for the people".
— Karen Honey (@IamKarenHoney) January 19, 2017
Former Mayor Bloomberg released a statement:
Wayne Barrett's death is a major loss for New York journalism. He was a good guy with a big heart who loved our city https://t.co/opTrfPVro3
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) January 19, 2017
Barrett is survived by his wife, Fran, their son Mac, three brothers, and two sisters.