One of the most engaging genres of American television is the talk show. Whether late night or daytime, talk shows are an American institution where we learn about interesting people, laugh with our favorite comedians, learn about uncomfortable truths, and occasionally see a degenerate or two fighting – but, we won’t get into that this time.
One of the best talk show hosts was Phil Donahue, and he’s still, rightfully, seen as an icon of the genre today. What made Donahue great was that he wasn’t afraid to have a variety of different guests on the show and discuss pressing topics. It was entertaining but it was also intelligent.
He could help make any show seem easygoing no matter how tough the content was.
But without a doubt, he had his fair share of challenges with his guests!
Join FactsVerse to check out the craziest Phil Donahue interviews captured on camera…
DOUG CASEY WARNED US
One interesting person known in financial, emigration, and libertarian circles is Doug Casey. Known as “The International Man” he’s advised on how to move abroad, diversify your assets, build your wealth, and protect your freedoms.
But this of course, is a rather niche interest and not one that the American public is often exposed to.
That changed on November 3, 1980 when Doug Casey appeared on the Phil Donahue show to a skeptical and often hostile audience.
In fact, it was on that date that Doug Casey told an audience of Americans things that they weren’t ready to hear. He warned them about the increasing inflation and the dangers of the dollar being taken off the gold standard – which had happened almost a decade prior to the interview.
He warned of economic collapse and social unrest and the decline of our great nation. He suggested that Americans look to relocate abroad to emerging markets and also advised about investing in precious metals such as gold. When he stated that he wasn’t interested in voting in the election, many audience members took it to mean that he didn’t care about the country.
Over 40 years later, some might scoff at the interview with Doug Casey. But many others feel that he warned us – and we didn’t listen.
MILTON FRIEDMAN RETURNS TO DONAHUE
Economist Milton Friedman made his first appearance on Donahue in 1979. But it was his second interview that really stirred up the pot and like Doug Casey’s interview, he left us so many warnings that we didn’t listen about.
In the interview, Milton Friedman discussed the issues with inflation and about increasing government control. He and Phil Donahue debated each other – showing their differing political views.
One of the most striking parts of the interview was when Phil Donahue critiques capitalism and asks Milton Friedman if he’s ever disturbed by the amount of greed he sees.
In that moment, Milton Friedman gave a legendary but also a chilling answer. This particular segment of the interview has been watched again and again on the internet.
Milton Friedman stated that the achievements of civilization have come from pursuing their self-interests. He stated that it wasn’t just the Soviet or Nazi governments that didn’t reward virtue but that the American Presidents also didn’t reward virtue.
While this might not be shocking today, we must remember that 40 years ago, it was still taboo to think of our country or our government as having the same evils as the dictatorships that we consider our enemies.
This remains one of Phil Donahue’s most important interviews.
WALTER WILLIAMS SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT
Walter Williams was yet another economist interviewed by Phil Donahue and this was one of his early mainstream interviews.
Like Doug Casey and Milton Friedman, Walter Williams warns about the economic crisis and the creeping authoritarianism in the country. But much of the audience found it shocking and felt that he was insulting the country rather than expressing his concerns about the country’s direction.
He also criticized the welfare system in the US and talked about how this could create a sense of entitlement and could continue to be abused in the future. He warned about the economic consequences of what could happen.
Looking back on this interview today, many Americans feel that, like his fellow economists, Walter Williams warned us and we didn’t listen!
AYN RAND CRITIQUES RELIGION
Phil Donahue interviewed the philosopher Ayn Rand several times on his show. Owing to his interest in debating with libertarian minded thinkers such as Doug Casey, Milton Friedman, and Walter Williams.
Ayn Rand was perhaps the most shocking of them all.
On a few occasions with Phil Donahue, she discussed how she didn’t approve of religion and how she didn’t believe in God and that no one could prove the existence of God. Naturally, this was very shocking and uncomfortable for many Americans and Phil Donahue had to silence some audience members so that he could continue conversing with Ayn Rand.
But it wasn’t just the fact that Ayn Rand professed her atheism that caused such furor. She criticized others beliefs in God and discussed how religion required man to be irrational and was dangerous. Her negative view on religion in the nation under God was naturally very shocking and perhaps still today.
While Ayn Rand is thought of as a great philosopher who has influenced and contributed to American intellectualism, another reflection on her views on religion and God have been called into question as a decline in religiosity is now the trend in America.
We are glad we had Phil Donahue who gave a platform to all kinds of ideas and allowed us to hear different perspectives.
But perhaps few of us were ready to hear what we’ll discuss next…
KHALID MUHAMMAD DIDN’T HOLD BACK
Guests from all walks of life liked to speak on Phil Donahue’s show because they knew that their host would allow them to speak freely – even if he was disgusted by their views.
Phil Donahue clearly had issues with one guest he had on in 1994 – namely, Khalid Muhammad. Khalid Muhammad was a minister in the Nation of Islam and wasn’t afraid to discuss his views on race relations in America.
He had openly praised a man who shot 6 innocent people on a commuter train – seeing it as a form of justice. He also made remarks that many considered to be hateful against particular ethnic groups. During this chilling interview, Phil Donahue allowed some of his guests to challenge what Khalid Muhammad said.
Yet, even with all the challenges from the hosts and audience members, not once did Khalid Muhammad flinch and he flicked every rebuttal like a powerful slingshot. This interview is arguably one of the best interviews of any political or ethnic leader in America and its one that has been revisited many times, particularly with the new discussions of race relations in America.
FARRAKHAN SPEAKS HIS MIND
While the 1994 interview with Khalid Muhammad sent shockwaves across the nation, there was another interview at the beginning of the decade that also tackled the uncomfortable discussion of race relations in America.
Phil Donahue interviewed Minister Louis Farrakhan to ask him his opinion about race relations in the country.
The audience had black and white Americans and the arguments and debates began as the Minister was giving his opinion on race relations. There were differing opinions and it seemed like no one could find common ground.
This is another one of Donahue’s most famous interviews and one that has had a huge resurgence in the light of recent discussions on race relations in the country. Some see this interview as an important discussion while others feel that this interview only ignited the flames even more.
TRUMP AND DONAHUE
While it was just another Phil Donahue episode when it was released, the interview with Donald Trump gained popularity when he was President and is now likely one of the most popular interviews that Phil Donahue ever gave.
In the interview, Donald Trump, then far away from politics and at the height of his fame – we’re talking about 1987 here, he discussed his real estate career as well as some of the issues facing renters in New York.
Phil Donahue challenged Donald Trump on a lawsuit he was facing and discussed how Trump was unwilling to take “welfare cases” who wanted to rent in his buildings. But Trump held his ground and very calmly answered questions in this episode.
He wasn’t explicit but he even hinted at a potential political career in this interview. He stated he wasn’t running for office but perhaps he had it in his mind that he one day would. He spent much of the interview discussing the poor policy issues such as rent control that made it harder for New Yorkers to find homes to rent.
While he was a successful businessman at the time, one could see that he also had concerns about the country and saw issues that would eventually spiral out of control. This interview isn’t just watched again and again but its studied.
Political analysts, supporters, and detractors alike watch this interview of Donald Trump with Phil Donahue to see how the former President held his composure and how he expressed his knowledge on the issues that were facing ordinary Americans. Perhaps this interview will be continue to be studied for several years to come and we can expect that this will be the case for so many of Donahue’s great shows.
So, now let’s hear from you:
Did you binge-watch Phil Donahue’s talk show back in the day? Do you remember watching any of these episodes for the first time?
In fact, here’s what we want to know from you:
Do you think that today’s talk shows lack serious discussion and are unwilling to discuss difficult issues?
Or is it ideal that we don’t and that talk shows remain pure light entertainment?