His wife, Pat, actually thought of it first, while watching Donald Trump on the Phil Donahue Show. The former President Nixon agreed with her enough to write Trump and let him know.
Daytime television talk shows weren't always about who was the father of whose baby or giving a makeover to teen girls who used to be strippers. In the late 1980s, the shows weren't always sensationalizing scandal. Shows like Phil Donahue's actually talked in-depth about news and cultural phenomena that were worthy of the attention. One such phenomenon was the popularity of a real estate mogul in New York who was attracting headlines everywhere: Donald Trump.
He once debated mosh pits with Marilyn Manson.
In December, 1987, Donahue interviewed Trump on his show. Phil Donahue didn't pull punches. From the get-go, he grilled Trump on his real estate management practices and the rumors associated with his "empire." In the middle of the interview, Trump tells Donahue he's able to be honest because he's "not running for office," after defending his policies – to the applause of a middle-class audience.
The look of surprise on Donahue's face was clear, as he shouted "let's hear it for the rich folks." The debate over rent control continued for another ten minutes and the studio audience weren't the only viewers impressed with the Donald's performance, one viewer at home was also suitably impressed: Pat Nixon.
The former First Lady of the United States was so impressed with Trump's responses to Donahue's grilling that she told her husband, 37th President of the United States Richard Nixon. Nixon might have agreed with his wife, as he took the time to write to Trump:
I did not see the program, but Mrs. Nixon told me you were great on the Donahue show.
As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office, you will be a winner!
The letter was stored away in the Nixon Presidential Library Archives until the author of a 2015 biography of Trump, called "Never Enough," included it in the memoir of then-soon-to-be Presidential candidate Trump.
Trump's interview on Donahue covered much more than rent control in New York City. His rhetoric was similar to the arguments he would come to use as a presidential candidate, including the idea of making American allies pay for the "services we are rendering" in providing for their defense.