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Donald Trump "partied with Aerosmith" ahead of the first GOP presidential debate in 2015

Composite shot of Donald Trump and Joe Perry
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Debra L Rothenberg/Getty Images )

A million years ago, in 2015, before Donald Trump was elected the leader of the free world, the first Republican presidential debate took place at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. By most accounts, Trump did not perform well.

"Tonight’s debate proved that the Trump balloon is likely to lose air just as fast as the helium took him up," said Mark McKinnon, former media adviser to George W. Bush. "He was alternatively mean, incoherent, pessimistic, sloppy, dismissive, testy, unprepared and, ultimately, unpresidential."

Well, it turns out that there may have be a reason for the "unprepared" part of McKinnon's review. Because Trump's team were busy hanging around with Aerosmith's Joe Perry ahead of the debate.

In a blow-by-blow account of the campaign published by Business Insider, Trump's then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski says, "We had a little bit of downtime before we went over to the arena. We landed the plane in Cleveland, and we got a phone call from Don McGahn, who was then our general counsel. 'Hey, Aerosmith is close by. Do you mind if they bring their tour bus over and party with us for a little while?' We said, '100% - bring Aerosmith over!'"

"So we sat there with Aerosmith about an hour before the debate," he continues, "swapping stories of Aerosmith as opposed to doing debate prep."

Former White House Counsel McGahn remembers things a little differently, saying, "It wasn't the whole band. It was Joe Perry. He was intrigued by the emerging Trump phenomenon. Remember, this was before there were any primary debates, and it was all new to everyone. Stuff that would be from Mars on any other campaign was perfectly normal for the Trump campaign.

"By this point, Trump was getting ready for the debate, so Joe had to wait a little bit. On the way out the door, Trump says something about 'rock stars have all the ladies,' which apparently Perry got mad at, because he's been married for decades and takes all that stuff pretty seriously. After the debate, if you watch the film, Joe goes up on stage and finds Trump and proceeds to tell him that he's married and he doesn't sleep around."

McGahn goes on to reveal that the presence of Perry at the debate may have been the result of a different set of politics: Aerosmith's own domestic affairs. 

"The subtext is that Steven Tyler already had tickets to the debate through some other wing of Trump Org," says McGahn. "Joe didn't want to be upstaged - wanted to meet with Trump rather than just go to the debate. Apparently, there's a whole internal Aerosmith thing among the political persuasion of the band."

Later that year, lawyers representing Steven Tyler issued a cease-and-desist order to Donald Trump for using Dream On at his political rallies. Three years later, the same thing happened with Livin' On The Edge.

Earlier this year, Joe Perry took part in the Fifth International Vatican Conference, which saw the "world’s leading physicians, scientists, leaders of faith, ethicists, patient advocates, policymakers, philanthropists and influencers" come together to "engage in powerful conversations on the latest breakthroughs in medicine, health care delivery and prevention."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor of Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 35 years in music industry, online for 22. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović. Likes cats.