Founder and President of Barstool Sports Dave Portnoy surprised fans and critics alike when he met with President Donald Trump for an interview in the Rose Garden, a move some viewed as out of place for the company’s apolitical stance.
Barstool Sports, the comedic media organization covering sports and pop culture, is known for its candor and honest discussion in the form of nearly every type of media, including blog posts, podcasts, and even Instagram pizza reviews.
Portnoy’s straightforward attitude as the leader of the company has at times landed him at the center of today’s biggest social and political debates, including the importance of government lockdowns and the right response Black Lives Matter.
Affectionately known as El Presidente, Portnoy has always avoided siding with either mainstream political party. Although he speaks his mind, his political interest hasn’t appeared to be strictly right or left leaning. He has made frequent appearances on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” attracting enemies on the left who accuse him of having a right-wing bias. He has said on air, however, that he will appear on any channel that will have him.
El Presidente began the interview in typical Barstool fashion, setting a light-hearted tone from the onset of the approximately twenty-minute meeting. The two naturally focused partially on sports, as the interview took place on the same day as the nation’s return of Major League Baseball.
Portnoy referenced some of the Barstool classic topics fans know and love, including his Davey Day Trader Global ventures, Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling scandal, and his longstanding feud with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Barstool followers are very familiar with Portnoy’s history with Goodell, tracing back to 2015 when the El Pres made his disagreement with the NFL’s “Deflategate” controversy public. Trump poked fun at Goodell’s fashion sense, referencing his recent move to don a tight-fitting t-shirt rather than a suit in a publicity stunt from earlier in the summer.
“Number one, he could have waited till at least the fall. But, more importantly, I would have worn a suit, or a tie, or even an open shirt that’s loose, not tight. So he came out with this thing, Dave, and everyone said where did this come from, now? And the whole big thing started. And he’s made a mistake,” the president said.
Portnoy gladly piled onto the criticism and jokingly inquired about Trump’s power to imprison Goodell due to an incident last month when he refused to allow Portnoy to be awarded the prize for winning an NFL-sponsored auction.
“He’s the most overpaid guy in the history of human beings,” Portnoy said.
Although the two kept the interview largely centered on pop culture, some of Trump’s answers called for discussion of his policies. The president went over some of his relationships with foreign nations and their leaders, including the big ones like Russia, China, and North Korea.
The two were able to find common ground in their view of the leadership of Dr. Anthony Fauci, lead member of the White House Coronavirus Task force, whose guidance has contributed to some of Portnoy’s stock losses.
“So Fauci is on my X-list because every time he talks and says the country should stay inside my stocks tank, so I don’t like that aspect of it,” Portnoy said. Trump said Dr. Fauci’s opinion is only a factor in what can happen to the country, as he himself has the final say on policy decisions.
The president touched on the national debate over whether or not to reopen schools, and gave his optimistic opinion on the state of the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re doing well. The polls are starting to really shape up. You know Dave, we were doing great. We were sailing. George Washington would have had a hard time beating us…” he said. “And now we’re really starting to do well. We’re looking really good in a lot of different places.”
Despite the political nature of a presidential interview, the first words out of Portnoy’s mouth at the start of the interview were a clarifying statement that he’s not a known Republican or Democrat and seeks to always remain apolitical. In keeping with his non-political background, El Presidente also said his interview with the president was the first he has ever conducted, adding that he clearly started at the top.
Following the interview, however, Portnoy faced criticism from fellow Barstool employee and co-host of “Pardon My Take,” Dan “Big Cat” Katz, for politicizing the company by doing the interview. Katz spent 10 minutes of his podcast discussing his concern for the company’s direction based on Portnoy’s move to conduct the interview.
Portnoy responded by saying he regrets not consulting Katz about the interview beforehand but stands by his decision. In a Barstool blog post written by El Pres himself, Portnoy indicated the honor that came with a White House interview, regardless of one’s political position.
“This was truly one of the most surreal days of my life. From delivering newspapers out of my Astro van to interviewing the leader of the free world at the White House,” he said. “What a long, strange trip it’s been. I don’t care what your politics are, this was an opportunity that couldn’t be turned on. I still can’t believe it happened to be honest.”
One of Trump’s critics actually appeared in the interview: Portnoy’s father. During the last minute, the two Facetimed his father to surprise him. His father’s message to the president? Telling his son to call him more often.
“He hasn’t called unsolicited in a long time. Can you get him to call me a little more? Thank you, sir.”
Despite Portnoy’s description of his dad as an avid political opponent of the president, he and Trump were able to have a courteous and well-mannered, albeit short, conversation.
Whether this proves to be El Presidente’s first or last interview, it was a heck of a get for a first-time interview.