Modern Family writer and co-executive producer Danny Zuker and Donald Trump are currently engaging in one of Twitter's more bizarre, and nastier, fights. It all started in early March, when Zuker — who currently has 190,000 followers — mocked the low ratings for Trump's NBC show Celebrity Apprentice.
And he hasn't let up since.
From there, Zuker continued to tweak Trump, mostly about Celebrity Apprentice's struggling ratings.
Finally, in April, Trump started engaging.
Trump told BuzzFeed he hadn't been aware of Zuker or his work until the tweeting began.
"I don't know anything about Danny Zuker, I've never heard of him," Trump said on Tuesday. "I have a lot of people on Twitter — over 2.2 million. I pick up about 7,000 a week, sometimes more than that."
For Zuker, though, the fight with Trump is a long time coming.
"If you have any sense at all on the East Coast, even before all this, you always hated the guy, he was this arrogant bullshitter, he was always so clearly full of shit," Zuker, a New Jersey native, told BuzzFeed. "But worse than that, he was a bully. And you always saw him bullying and you could always count on being right if you simply went against what he said. Whether it was the guys in Central Park who he championed throwing in jail turned out not to be responsible in the 'wilding' case, and of course his response to that, he's so unrepentant, is 'They were guilty of something. They're not angels.' But that's not what you're accusing them of, you're lying."
When Trump finally responded, Zuker said he was delighted. "I wanted to poke that bear. Because frankly I've watched him attack people on Twitter who have real jobs and so their skill-set isn't punching him back verbally in 140 characters," he said. "When Donald Trump tells you you're not good looking enough to be on TV, when that face and hair comes after me, I'm definitely no supermodel but it was fantastic to have him be that un-self-aware."
In particular, Zuker said, Trump's obsession with President Obama's birth certificate drives him crazy. "When he got into the birther stuff, that's such a racist issue and there are people who listen to him," he said. "What's so disgusting with the birtherism is that I don't believe that he believes that Obama is not from this country. I think he knows that's not true, but I think he has an audience, and by the way... he has an audience who take him on his word."
Trump responded that his accusation that President Obama was perhaps born in Kenya was not racially motivated. "I am the least racist person of anybody," Trump insisted. "I have so many friends that just say I can't even believe they say that about you. A lot of people try to portray that as race, to a certain extent that was a protective measure, saying race. I still don't understand why he didn't give the records."
Zuker suspects that the call went unanswered because, as he said, even the GOP had grown weary of Trump, to the point that it shelved the much-hyped video he had prepared for the party's convention. "Imagine how bad that video had to be that the RNC did not play it. This is the organization that had Clint Eastwood talk to a chair."
Though it hasn't been announced, Trump said that NBC has given his show the green light for its 14th season, even while acknowledging that shows do lose ratings over time. But Zuker, who once considered organizing an advertiser boycott of the show and says it has "killed NBC," was skeptical that the renewal will actually happen. "I have great faith in the time between now and when they might pick it up that Donald Trump will do something so heinous that it will be impossible," he said, laughing.
For his part, Trump claimed he doesn't mind Zuker's jabs, saying he receives far worse on Twitter, and appreciates comedy sent in his direction — even that of Jon Stewart, who he's raged against on Twitter in recent weeks after Stewart called him "FuckFace Von Clownstick" on a recent edition of The Daily Show.
"I like Jon Stewart. I like him, actually. He hits me, and I understand that's comedy," said Trump. "I'll give you one other example, when I was at the White House dinner a few years ago when the president went after me, he did it in such a nice way and it was so respectful and I loved it. But when the press covered it, the press said 'Oh Trump hated it.' In fact, I was tapping my wife on the knee saying 'Can you believe the President is talking about me?' ... When I left, I was smiling, I had a good time, I said to my wife, 'Can you believe half the speech was devoted to me?'"
There is one thing Zuker and Trump do agree on: Trump insists his hair is real, and Zuker doesn't see much of a point in making fun of it.
"The only thing I've kept off limits with him, probably because I'm bald, I never went after his hair," he said, laughing. "I always thought that was too easy for a joke. The things he says are so heinous and such good fodder for comedy that I always sort of limited myself to that."