President Trump made a rare and personal reference to his older brother Fred Trump Jr. Thursday as he declared the opioid crisis in America a “public health emergency.”
Fred Trump was a former pilot who suffered from alcoholism. He died in 1981 at age 43 due to complications from the disease.
When describing how his administration plans to initiate a “massive” advertising campaign to try and convince younger Americans to avoid drugs, President Trump talked about how his brother told him to stay away from alcohol.
“I had a brother, Fred, great guy,” Trump said. “Best looking guy, best personality. Much better than mine.”
“But he had a problem,” Trump continued. “He had a problem with alcohol. And he would tell me don’t drink. Don’t drink.”
“I listened to him and I respected him. But he would constantly tell me don’t drink. He would also add don’t smoke. But he would say it over and over and over again,” Trump said as families affected by the opioid crisis watched on.
“And to this day, I’ve never had a drink.”
Trump has rarely spoken about his older brother, who was his best man at his first wedding with Ivana. Even during the 2016 presidential race — when the issue of addiction and the opioid epidemic was front and center on the campaign trail — Trump would seldom mention his brother’s battle with alcohol addiction.
But as president, Trump has been impassioned to confront the issue of addiction, especially the opioid crisis, head on. Trump drew inspiration from his personal experience with his brother, according to a senior White House official, who said the president has also brought up his sibling when discussing the topic with senior staff.
In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2015, Trump told the British publication that “it just broke my heart the way (Fred) died. It was ridiculous, if you think about it. He had so much in front of him.”
“This is why I don’t drink, ever. I just don’t do it,” Trump said. “Fred told me not to, and I saw what happened to him when he didn’t follow his own advice.”
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 90,000 Americans die each year from alcohol-related causes.