Comedian Tries Cornering Trump With Fake Phone Call, Blindsided by Purely Presidential Response


When one thinks about presidential satire, many illustrious names come to mind.

Hunter Thompson published savage, truth-challenged accounts of his run-ins with the suzerains of Washington. P.J. O’Rourke spent the ’80s and ’90s cataloguing the excesses of the District of Columbia in hyperbolic style. Calvin Trillin has submitted a piece of doggerel or two about the political climate that were on point when they were written, and worth reading in retrospect.

John Melendez? Not so much. For whatever reason, the intelligentsia tends to ignore the intellectual contributions of a man best known for his role as “Stuttering John” on Howard Stern’s radio show — a role which, from my vague knowledge of the insipid program, probably consisted of hosting fake “game shows” between a porn star, a klansman and a person with intellectual disabilities. (Look! They talk funny!)

Melendez left Howard Stern’s program in 2004 and has drifted around the entertainment world since. He’s now hosting a podcast called “The Stuttering John Show,” probably a wise choice since it’s a field where the barriers to entry aren’t just low but non-existent. Ah, but how to capture an audience? Well, how about prank calling the White House and getting through to the president?

That’s exactly what Melendez did, all by posing as scandal-plagued New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez — a canny choice, since members of neither party seem to have been spending much time with him these past few years and it’s unlikely any of them could pick out his voice, or at least would admit to it. The prank not only procured Melendez an instant audience, but it created a buzz among Serious People in Washington that the president was acting dangerously.

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So, what did the phone call prove? Well, mainly that Donald Trump is civil, thoughtful and willing to reach across the aisle. Quelle horreur.

According to The Hill, Melendez-as-Menendez called the White House and got a callback from the president from Air Force One.

After exchanging pleasantries, the president congratulated “Menendez” on beating a federal corruption rap.

“You went through a tough, tough situation. And I don’t think a very fair situation, but congratulations,” Trump said.

Do you think that this prank call is being blown out of proportion?

“Menendez” brought up his concerns about immigration during the call and asked the president what he was going to do for his “constituents.”

“But I have to ask, what can I tell them you’re going to do moving forward?” Melendez said.

“I think we could do a real immigration bill. We have to have security at the border. We have to have it,” Trump responded.

That’s it. That’s the prank call. Not even a desultory Prince Albert in a can joke, although presumably Air Force One is a non-smoking flight.

Responding to the prank, a White House official said that “the president wants to be accessible to members and likes engaging them and wants them to have the opportunity to connect.”

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“The downside of that is sometimes the channels are open too widely and mistakes like this happen.”

Here are my takeaways from this prank:

  • President Trump probably hadn’t talked to Menendez much since he’s taken office — indeed, much of Menendez’s time has been taken up by lawyers — but was willing to speak to a relatively liberal member of the Democrat caucus to get things done, even if he couldn’t recognize his voice.
  • He was relatively civil, considering who he thought he was talking to.
  • He says he’s willing to work with Democrats to get immigration done.
  • The White House could possibly do a better job of screening calls, but there was practically no harm done and Melendez didn’t give any particular reason to indicate this was a prank. The only “funny” part was that he got through.

Trump’s behavior, in toto, was completely presidential. And yet, Democrat Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia called all of this “chilling.”

“I flew on Air Force One with President Obama … and their security systems are supposed to be pretty tight,” Connolly said. “There’s a whole protocol for making phone calls and receiving phone calls.

“I’m shocked this was able to get through, and it really does raise questions about what kind of security filter do we have on Air Force One, presumably the most secure set of communications in the world?”

Connolly may not be a frontrunner for the 2018 Captain Renault Award for Feigned Outrage, but he’s definitely worthy of a pity nomination — kind of like a solid unknown performer in a modest indie pic that gets a Best Supporting Actor nod at the Oscars even though he knows he’s going to lose to Christian Bale.

It’s not as if Melendez dialed up Air Force One, put on a Jerky Boys voice and told the president, “Look, sweetpants, this is the ghost of Curtis LeMay. Let’s nuke India, Donnie! Light up Hyderabad! Whaddya say?” He fooled the White House, Trump called him back from the plane — not at all a breach of “the most secure set of communications in the world” — and a friendly if insubstantial conversation occurred.

If that’s “chilling” to Rep. Connolly, God knows what he thought of Hillary Clinton having a private email server with classified information on it that was accessed by unknown foreign actors.

Oh, that’s right. Nothing. He thought nothing of that.

Upon further consideration, maybe Rep. Connolly has a better chance than I thought at that Captain Renault award. If he wins, I do hope he shares it with Stuttering John, or at least mentions him during the acceptance speech.

The man, after all, seems in desperate need of some attention.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture