Documentary on Trump mentor Roy Cohn depicts ‘pure evil’

Roy Cohn and his protégé, a young Donald Trump, enjoy some time together.

Roy Cohn, according to a new, hatchet-job documentary, was the embodiment of pure evil.

“Where’s My Roy Cohn?” gives his admirers like Donald Trump ally Roger Stone skimpy chance to counter the multiple talking heads who insist — accurately, in my opinion — that the ruthless, bullying, jingoistic attorney had been a corrupt fixer who’d lie about anything (including under oath).

And, sadly, someone who’d been partially responsible for his protégé, Trump, becoming the power-mad demagogue he is.

Seemingly endless parallels between Cohn and Trump are highlighted. Each of the power-hungry men, for example, would:

• Do anything to win.

• Never admit being wrong.

• Attack anyone who opposed him.

• Tell the same lies over and over again.

• Enflame prejudices.

• Weaponize lawsuits.

• Avoid paying taxes and bills.

• Manipulate the media.

Director Matt Tyrnauer intentionally piles on detail after detail of Cohn’s disturbing, sordid history.

Cohn, who learned early on — and mentored a sponge-like Trump — how to become an attack dog that could maul foes and governmental agencies alike, first gained notoriety as chief counsel to anti-Communist fear-monger Sen. Joseph McCarthy (having been recommended for the post by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who’d viciously collected gossip-laden files on his enemies).

The unscrupulous but influential power broker also garnered headlines by prosecuting Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as atomic spies, by representing mob bosses, and by being ostentatious (the doc touches on his owning two Rolls Royces; hanging out at Club 21 and other society hotspots; reveling in the opening of Trump Tower in New York City; and hobnobbing with political stars such as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, painters like Andy Warhol and authors of Norman Mailer’s stature).

Showing Cohn’s ties to the Mafia, the movie suggests the lawyer acted as “a bridge between the legitimate world and the illegitimate world,” and also cites his indictment as a perjurer in a stock case, his being accused of fraud and conspiracy, his having allegedly set fire to his boat to collect a hefty insurance payout, and his being disbarred for stealing from his own clients.

In effect, the relentless hour and 37-minute hit piece puts the Trump attorney into such a bad light it makes latter-day jailed presidential attorney Michael Cohen look like an angel who’d been spreading his wings in a sandbox.

The narrative, which claims Cohn had a lot of friends until he was disbarred and then suddenly had no friends at all, notes that he survived liver cancer but died from AIDS though he refused even on his deathbed to admit he had the latter.

He’s labeled a closeted, self-hating homosexual who investigated gays, a man who was spotlighted negatively in congressional hearings that detailed his “warm” relationship with hotel heir G. David Schine, for whom he tried to get privileged Army treatment.

Cohn’s also referred to by a family member as a self-hating Jew.

Speaking of references, the documentary’s title stems from a purported Trump quote dating to Att. Gen. Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation — although the phrase isn’t actually mentioned in the film.

What is indicated, however, is that Cohn instructed Trump in demagoguery and hypocrisy, and that, according to one interviewee, if you were with the sleazy attorney in a room, “you knew you were in the presence of evil.”

The doc, which just screened at the Mill Valley Film Festival, underscores that “power in the hands of someone that reckless is a dangerous thing” — a phrase that instantly brought Trump to my mind again.

“Where’s My Roy Cohn?” opens at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco and Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley, as well as Cinemark’s Century Regency in San Rafael, on Oct. 18.

Contact Woody Weingarten, a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, at or

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at or, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →