Byko: A former Trump exec spills about his old boss

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Trump Plaza Vice President of Marketing Dave Coskey (right) talking to his boss, Donald Trump, circa 1990. Coskey said he has “nothing but respect for him and his ability.”

This is not an endorsement of Donald J. Trump.

Unlike (most of) you, I met him and I covered him during his high-kick Atlantic City days.

So has my colleague Jenice Armstrong, who liked that he always returned her calls quickly. Personally.

Who wouldn't?

He didn't return my calls as quickly, but I'm not as nice as Jenice.

In case you hadn't noticed.

I'm going back almost 30 years to when The Donald was Atlantic City's Biggest Deal, at one time owning three casinos.

His first, the Trump Plaza, at one time "was the highest grossing casino in the world," says Dave Coskey, who was that casino's vice president of marketing.

It was during that time that I spent some (limited) time on Trump's radar, giving him what I thought was fair treatment. I admit I often tweaked him because his over-the-top behavior begged for snark, the way a convention balloon begs to be popped.

It was then I developed my opinion, from observation, that Trump used lying as a business tool.

Coskey, 57, doesn't share that view.

I asked him if he remembered the press kit for the opening of the Taj Mahal, which claimed it had more stories than it actually had and also claimed it was the tallest building in New Jersey, which it was not.

Coskey didn't recall that. "I can't imagine in those days he was involved in the creation of the press kit."

A Villanova grad who had two successful stints in branding and promoting the Sixers (the second during the glory days under Pat Croce), Coskey always called his boss "Mr. Trump" - not because Trump demanded that salutation. He didn't. "That was personal," said Coskey. "I called Mr. Snider, Mr. Snider, too."

Coskey worked for Trump from 1988-91. "I have, from the time I worked for him, I have nothing but respect for him and his ability," said Coskey, whom I have known, liked and trusted for decades.

"He did his best to hire the best people for a position and let them do their jobs," said Coskey.

Is this a clue to how a President Trump might govern? Hire good people and give them room?

Was he racist, I asked?

"Never."

Anti-woman?

"Never."

Anti-immigrant?

"Never. That's why if I hear somebody saying that today I say that's not the experience I had."

Yes, Coskey is a white, Christian male born here, but that doesn't invalidate his opinion.

I asked him if he feels Trump has been careless in his statements, such as Mexicans being rapists, and Obama not being born in Hawaii. Coskey said that had not been his experience, which was 25 years ago.

I think things have changed. Trump's statements read like a Rorschach test, studded with megalomania, generalization and distortion, or ignorance, of facts.

His tone-deafness can be frightening. In the most recent blowup, Trump trampled on an opportunity to address the Gold Star Khan parents, who dressed him down from the stage of the DNC.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump shamefully talked about his own "sacrifices," rather than seize the moment to say he and all America appreciated their sacrifice and then add, "When you immigrated here, you passed a security check to make sure you would be good, loyal Americans. You are. That's all I am proposing for new immigrants."

As criticism boiled, a day later, Trump unsuccessfully tried to wiggle away from his mess using a letter and a tweet.

Coskey laughed but did not answer when I asked if he would work for a Trump Administration.

Coskey is now the president of Longport Media, which owns five radio stations down the shore, which even-handedly broadcast both Trump's and Hillary Clinton's acceptance speeches.

Coskey has been a student, and master, of the media for four decades. He believes the media has been unfair to The Donald.

Small example: During the RNC, he said, "places like CNN kept a count of how many times Clinton's name was mentioned by speakers. It did not count how many times Trump's name was mentioned by DNC speakers," he said.

I was curious as to whether Trump was a Big Picture man - which he seems to be, even if some of the Big Pictures seem like cartoons - or a guy who sweats the details.

"I'm not sure," replied Coskey. "I wouldn't be able to classify him as either."

I know Coskey did sweat the details of every event he organized. "That was one of the things I took away from the Trump Organization," he said. "I learned the importance of paying attention to certain details. That was never told to me. It was kind of assumed by me."

For the second consecutive time, the Democrats have chosen a history-making, non white male candidate.

For the umpteenth time, the Republicans have chosen a wealthy white male - not that there's anything wrong with that - but this one is an eccentric, unpredictable, TV-reality star who seems to be mentally unhinged.

And yet . . .

Coskey said he could vote for Trump.

But will he vote for Trump?

Smiling, Coskey said, "I don't necessarily think that has to be shared."


stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky

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