GOP frontrunner Donald Trump was put through the wringer in a contentious interview with conservative Wisconsin-based radio host Charlie Sykes Monday, admitting at one point he did not know Sykes was part of the #NeverTrump movement during the 17-minute exchange.
— Charles Sykes (@SykesCharlie) March 13, 2016
Sykes launched into the fight between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) regarding their wives, which began when a Super PAC not connected to Cruz's campaign launched an ad attacking Trump's wife Melania. Trump responded by retweeting an unflattering picture of Cruz's wife, Heidi.
"I expect that from a 12-year-old bully on the playground. Not somebody who wants the office held by Abraham Lincoln," Sykes said.
Trump replied it was a "very minor response" to Cruz's actions, although Sykes repeatedly insisted the initial offender of Melania was not connected to Cruz's team.
Sykes also launched into Trump's weak numbers with women, playing the ad put out of Trump's insulting remarks about women, and he asked how fathers and mothers should "explain" to their children how major candidates are behaving on the campaign trail.
Trump protested he'd rather be talking about real issues like trade and border security, and Sykes challenged him on attacks he'd made against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a former rival of Trump for the 2016 nomination. Sykes also repeated the consistent criticism of Trump for his past donations to Democrats and liberal policy positions he had held in the past.
After some back-and-forth on how he would work with Congress as president, Sykes dropped an apparent bombshell on his interview subject.
"Mr. Trump, before you called into my show, did you know that I'm a #NeverTrump guy?" Sykes asked.
"That I didn't know," Trump said.
"OK. I thought it was interesting. People were wondering, does Donald Trump know what Charlie Sykes has said about him in the past?'" Sykes said. "And I would give you credit either way on it, but I was wondering."
"No, no, I understand," Trump said. "But no, I didn't know that, but I assume you're also an intelligent guy. I know you're an intelligent guy, and you understand what's going on. Our country is getting ripped off left and right by every country we do business with, even in NATO."
Sykes later said he had apparently failed to introduce Trump to Wisconsin and its "tradition of civility and decency" for his attacks on Heidi Cruz and Scott Walker. Trump repeated the fictitious claim that Cruz was responsible for the insulting ad about Melania Trump, insisting Cruz "started it."
"Do you want some free advice?" Sykes asked. "If you stand up there and you say, ‘Folks, let me just say this. I'm running for president. Ted Cruz is running for president. Let's leave our wives out of it. Both of us have married intelligent, beautiful women, and from now on, we are not going to be talking about one another's wives.' People in Wisconsin will love that, Mr. Trump."
"Who wouldn't agree to that? I think it's great," Trump said. "Again, I didn't start it. He started it. If he didn't start it, it would have never happened … But he started it."
"Remember, we're not on a playground. We're running for President of the United States," Sykes said.