Here’s an ethical dilemma for the ages.
Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz claims that he wrote GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s 1987 blockbuster business memoir, “The Art of the Deal.” He also says that he put a far higher gloss on the man than he deserved. Schwartz was rewarded for his efforts with half the $500,000 advance and half the royalties on a book that spent 48 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.
Now, according to Jane Mayer’s article in The New Yorker, he’s feeling shame for having — as he reportedly put it — “put lipstick on a pig.” Schwartz’s book brought Trump to prominence in 1987 and we all know what’s happened since.
“I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing that he is,” Schwartz is quoted as saying. “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes, there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” The article goes on to say that if he were writing that book today, it would be very different with a different title. “The Sociopath,” he says, would be it.
How does a writer avoid being put in a position like Schwartz’s? That’s a tough call. Part of the job of ghostwriting is to put that high gloss on a client’s work. But maybe a writer needs to listen to his or her inner voice. It’s not all about money; it’s also about potential consequences, and that’s where forethought and conscience come into play.
But props to Mr. Schwartz for going public.