Jonathan Wood said he knew the TIME magazine photo shoot with his 27-year-old bald eagle named “Uncle Sam” and GOP presidential frontrunner and real estate mogul Donald Trump was going to be very difficult.
Trump told Fox News Thursday he wasn’t “really” scared of the majestic bird.
“I’m doing this for the cover of TIME magazine,” he said during the photo shoot. “I love TIME magazine. What you will do for a cover — this bird is seriously dangerous, but beautiful.”
Wood, who has been Uncle Sam’s handler for more than 20 years, said on that day, his bird was extra “cranky.” He had just spent a flight from Dallas to New York locked away in cargo. Plus, Uncle Sam is missing part of his wing and is blind in one eye. He has a very difficult time balancing himself.
Trump was one of the only people to ever hold Uncle Sam on his shoulder, Wood said, adding that the bird’s bad day and physical handicaps would add up to make that shot nearly impossible to go smoothly. That’s when Uncle Sam messed with Trump’s hair.
“I already knew that it was going to be a very difficult thing to do and I said that to Mr. Trump,” he told INSIDER.
Video editing by Kristen Griffin
Wood added that, when the eagle tried to bite Trump, causing the candidate to lunge away in fear, he had forgotten to mention something very important.
Uncle Sam, as bald eagles do, would claim any space it’s set on as its territory. And he would try to defend it.
“I forgot to tell Mr. Trump about that whole territorial thing cause the bird was sitting off kind of to the side,” he said, adding the bird only bluffs like it’s going to bite.
Uncle Sam hadn’t bit anybody in the 20 years Wood has handled him, he said.
The bald eagle has been a part of a fair share of photo shoots in the past, previously posing with Stephen Colbert and former President Bill Clinton. Uncle Sam even met Donald Trump earlier this year at one of his golf courses.
Wood said, aside from those moments, the shoot went very well. He even got to join an exclusive club while monitoring Uncle Sam.
“I had the honour of actually helping ya know, fix Donald Trump’s hair,” he said. “So I’m the member of a very exclusive club of people that have actually touched his hair. And it’s real.”
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