Trump Gets Candid About Late Brother's Battle With Alcoholism

By Beth Leipholtz 08/12/19

"He was so handsome, and I saw what alcohol did to him even physically... and that had an impact on me, too," Trump said in a recent interview.

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump shared that his late brother’s battle with alcohol use disorder is part of what fuels his "fight" against the country’s ongoing opioid epidemic. 

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, the president spoke candidly about his brother, Fred Trump Jr., and how his sibling’s struggles have influenced his administration's approach to the opioid epidemic. 

"I guess you could say now I'm the chief of trying to solve it," Trump told the Post. "I don't know that I'd be working, devoting the kind of time and energy and even the money we are allocating to (the opioid crisis)... I don't know that I'd be doing that had I not had the experience with Fred."

His Regrets

Fred Trump Jr. died in 1981 at the age of 42 after battling with alcohol for many years. President Trump says that in retrospect, he regrets the way he treated his brother. When his brother was hoping to become a pilot instead of entering the family business, he told him, “You’re wasting your time.”

“I do regret having put pressure on him,” Trump told the Post. Running the family business “was just something he was never going to want” to do. “It was just not his thing... I think the mistake that we made was we assumed that everybody would like it. That would be the biggest mistake... There was sort of a double pressure put on him.”

As his brother’s drinking worsened and he ended up hospitalized, Trump recalled what it was like watching the brother he knew slowly fade away. "He was so handsome, and I saw what alcohol did to him even physically... and that had an impact on me, too," Trump said. 

The president himself does not drink or smoke, and says he asked his brother various times what compelled him to do so. "I used to ask, 'Is it the taste, or what is it?' He didn't know what to say about it because, frankly, it was just something that he liked."

Trump also alluded to the fact that he refrains from drinking because he worries how he may handle it. "Let's say I started drinking, it's very possible I wouldn't be talking to you right now,” he told the Post. “There is something about the genetic effect.”

While not frequently, Trump has spoken about his brother in the past to other media outlets including Playboy magazine in 1990. 

“His death affected everything that has come after it,” Trump said at the time. “I think constantly that I never really gave him thanks for it. He was the first Trump boy out there, and I subconsciously watched his moves. I saw people really taking advantage of Fred and the lesson I learned was always to keep up my guard one hundred percent, whereas he didn’t. He didn’t feel that there was really reason for that, which is a fatal mistake in life.”

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.