Larry King likes Donald Trump. “I’ve always liked him personally,” the legendary television host told Fortune in a recent interview. “I’ve read some terrible things that I’m sad about, but he’s never done anything bad to me.”
Still, King has mixed feelings about the billionaire’s ascent to the White House. “Donald is a complicated character,” King says. “His ego is beyond egoism. I’ve never met anyone with a higher ego.”
King will celebrate his 60th anniversary in broadcasting on May 1. He’s one of many fixtures of the Manhattan media firmament who have deep ties with the Trumps. “I’ve known Donald Trump for 35 years,” King told Fortune. “Socialized with him many times, interviewed him-I can’t even count how many times I’ve interviewed him.”
His impression of Trump’s presidency so far is that the former TV host is still adapting to his new role-to the extent that he’s able.
“He has difficulty saying he’s wrong. He has a nice family. He might be in a little over his head. Remember, he’s 70 years old,” King says. “When you’re 70 years old, you’re pretty set in your ways. So if you like to tweet, you’re not going to stop tweeting.”
King knows as well as anyone the symbiotic relationship between Trump and the media. King’s longtime network home, CNN, was thought by many to have been instrumental to Trump’s widespread popularity-particularly as the network covered the telegenic candidate’s every move. The counterpoint, is of course, that CNN and the rest of the media were simply giving their audience what it wanted to watch.
“While he may criticize, let’s say, CNN,” King says, “CNN helped make him because they covered every speech he made. What came firs,t the speech or the ratings?”
The ratings, it has to be said, are pretty good. Even some outlets that have challenged the Trump administration’s policies have seen subscriptions and viewership climb since he was elected. Trump was always an expert at getting on Page Six of the New York Post, King recalls, “but now, it’s the front page of the New York Times.” The fact that the two do not seem as distinct as they used to has also probably boosted readership.
Ultimately, though, King sounds less dour than many prognosticators about the next four years. When it comes to Trump, he says, “I want to be optimistic.”