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Trump grants Oval Office meeting to TMZ founder

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

Since Inauguration Day, President Donald Trump has spent his time meeting with heads of state, titans of industry, economic advisers and public health specialists.

And the founder of TMZ.

Trump, in a meeting last Wednesday that went unmentioned on his public schedule, spent about an hour in the Oval Office chatting with Harvey Levin, the tabloid emperor whose Los Angeles-based news site and television show are leading purveyors of gossip and scandal.

Face time with the leader of the free world is a coveted commodity, and Trump has granted few one-on-one interviews with journalists since taking office. But he and Levin have some history: The TMZ chieftain interviewed Trump for a Fox News special, “Objectified: Donald Trump,” that aired last fall.

“The show was a huge success, and the two were discussing future opportunities,” Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman, wrote by email Tuesday.

Levin, according to two people with direct knowledge of the visit, broached the possibility of Trump’s sitting for another interview on his new Fox News series, “Objectified,” a spinoff from last fall’s special. The show, which is expected to make its debut in September, is to feature interviews with celebrities who describe cherished objects in their lives.

One of Levin’s ideal guests is Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback and a friend of Trump, and Levin planned to ask the president if he would help secure the athlete’s participation, according to one of the people who described the visit.

Levin, 66, visited the day after Trump’s first formal address to Congress and was given a warm White House welcome. He received a tour of the presidential residence, including a stop in the Lincoln Bedroom — photographs of which he proudly showed to friends after returning to Los Angeles, one of the people said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to share details of conversations that were intended to be private.

Repeated inquiries to Levin and TMZ brought no response.

Levin, whose White House visit was first described Tuesday by the website Entitymag.com, is a lawyer who gained prominence as a commentator on the O.J. Simpson trial. He founded TMZ in 2005, building the Hollywood-focused operation into a powerful force in tabloid news, known for its scoops and its guerrilla interviews with celebrities at airports and other public places.

His interview with Trump, done in September, was a Barbara Walters-style, soft-toned profile of the Republican presidential nominee, who reminisced at length about his childhood in Queens, military academy education, reality television career and rise to prominence.

Levin’s questions tended to be friendly. “Who are you? Who is Donald Trump?” he asked.

“Always a very tough question,” Trump replied.

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