Trump Debunked: We fact-check The Donald's outrageous claims
Donald Trump has said a lot of ridiculous things over the years. And not just related to the “amazing things” his crack team of investigators uncovered in Hawaii while investigating President Obama’s birth certificate. Or his aborted intention to run for president. He’s a master of self-promotion whose greatest achievement is branding and selling at bargain-rates a watered-down concept of his own billionaire lifestyle to a fame-obsessed and money-hungry American public. Trump is the ultimate proof of the idea that if you tell lies as frequently as possible, people will eventually believe they are true. As the eleventh season of The Celebrity Apprentice comes to a close, we decided to fact-check a number of his ridiculous claims, from his continual assertion that “The Apprentice is the no. 1 show on NBC” to Trump University.
“The Celebrity Apprentice is the no. 1 show on NBC.” Um, no. Despite all the hype surrounding the eleventh cycle of Trump’s faux job-hunting competition — from his threatened presidential bid to the “birther” controversy to The Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump to the Gary Busey/Meat Loaf and Star Jones/NeNe Leakes feuds to vaguely erotic voicemail — The Celebrity Apprentice isn’t no. 1 in anything. Not in the 18-49 demographic, certainly not in total viewers. It’s no longer even NBC’s highest-rated reality competition; that distinction now belongs to The Voice. In total viewers this season, The Celebrity Apprentice been regularly bested by Harry’s Law (no. 1 on NBC, no. 20 overall), The Voice (no. 2 on NBC, no. 25 overall) and Law & Order: SVU (no. 3 on NBC, no. 44 overall). The Celebrity Apprentice ranks fourth in total viewers on NBC, with an average of 8.8 million people tuning in every week. In the coveted 18-49 demographic, it places third behind The Voice and The Office. Have there been individual weeks when a lack of competition has resulted in The Celebrity Apprentice ranking no. 1 on NBC? Sure. But the franchise hasn’t been NBC’s season-long top draw since the second cycle way back in the fall of 2004 when it was in fact NBC’s no. 1 series in both the 18-49 demo and total viewers for the ’04-’05 season. It’s been in decline ever since. Sorry, NBC, but your ratings savior won’t come courtesy of a comb-over.
Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles is “the most popular golf course in California.” Trump recently declared on The Celebrity Apprentice that his L.A. golf club is the most popular in the Golden State. Now, it’s hard to know what empirical statistics Trump is relying on to determine his course’s “popularity.” Most likely none. We asked Golf Magazine (which, like EW, is owned by Time Inc.) senior editor Joe Passov to weigh in on whether Trump’s claim can be validated by any objective standards. “There’s basically no way to dispute Trump’s claim about his course being ‘most popular’ since it’s absolutely subjective,” Passov says. “It definitely does not host the most rounds, nor is it the highest-ranked, among any of the major publications that do credible ranks.” To add insult to injury, he adds, “The only source I’ve ever seen for golf that provides a numerical posting for ‘popularity’ is the Zagat Survey. In Zagat’s most recent print version from two years ago, Trump’s L.A. club was nowhere close — not in the Top 40 “Most Popular” courses — and Trump was good friends with Tim and Nina Zagat!”
Golf Digest is a little more generous, ranking his course as California’s 32nd best on a list topped by Cypress Point and Pebble Beach. It’s also important to note that Trump’s isn’t a private club. It’s merely another example of the mass-market luxury — devoid of any exclusivity — that Trump peddles to give ordinary folks a fleeting, superficial taste of the good life.
Trump Ice is the “purest” bottled water. Yes, Trump has his own brand of bottled water, which you can guzzle at any of his hotels and casinos. But he claims on the label — next to his grinning mug — that it’s “one of the highest quality spring waters in the world with an optimum mineral content.” Au contraire says Michael Mascha, publisher of the website FineWaters and author of A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Most Distinctive Bottled Waters. His research indicates that the mineral content of Trump Ice is actually “very low.” It asks a premium “for the image on the bottle rather than focusing on the water and the source.” Also, the fact that it comes in a plastic bottle as opposed to glass indicates that it is definitely not a luxury item.
“I have never been bankrupt.” We’ll give you this one, Donald. Sure, you’ve never had to declare bankruptcy yourself, even if many of your companies and real estate properties have defaulted on debt payments and been forced to seek court-assisted restructuring.
Donald Trump’s Atlantic City casinos have filed for bankruptcy three times. The latest, in 2009, resulted in Trump’s resignation as Chairman of the Board of Trump Entertainment Resorts Holdings. In fact, he has no real tie to the three Jersey Shore casinos that bear his name — other than a desire on the part of its current management to keep the “Trump” name licensed, under the belief that Trump is luxury personified.
He did at one time claim ownership over the properties, but after he financed his $1 billion Trump Taj Mahal casino in 1989 with high-interest junk bonds, his gaming business was brought to bankruptcy. His lenders and bond holders ended up losing hundreds of millions of dollars when he opted to file for Chapter 11 debt restructuring over honoring his original loans. The Taj Mahal did emerge from bankruptcy in 1991, but with Trump ceding 50 percent of the casino’s ownership to his debt holders, in exchange for more time to pay off his original principal with a much lowered interest rate. That said, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts never successfully paid down its debt, and by October 2004, it filed for Chapter 11 again, a plan that called for Trump to reduce his ownership from 56 percent to 27 percent. He resigned as CEO but stayed on as Chairman of the Board. When the company reemerged from bankruptcy in May 2005, it renamed itself Trump Entertainment Resorts Holdings.
But that wasn’t the end of Trump’s casino nightmare. When Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for bankruptcy in 2009 in the wake of the economic collapse, he gave up his chairmanship, his $2 million salary (which he was owed, he told NBC Nightly News, because of his “genius”), and any claim to those casinos other than naming rights, once again leaving his creditors high and dry. Like so many leaders of failing companies in the wake of the financial collapse, Trump sought to protect himself at the expense of his failing businesses.
“Trump” properties. Some of the properties that bear the Trump name aren’t even owned by The Donald. He has licensed his name, on the idea that it’s synonymous with status and luxury, to other real-estate developers, including the group behind the failed Trump Tower in Tampa, Fla., a high-profile condominium project that took deposits of $45,000 or more from would-be apartment owners … then never built the building. Oh, and without returning the deposits. One such deposit-holder, Elaine Lucadano, is part of an ongoing lawsuit against Trump for alleged misleading business practices. “Donald Trump left us high and dry,” Lucadano claims. “He misled us into thinking that he was a partner in this project when in fact he was a licensure.” Trump disputes the allegations, blames the real-estate downturn for the project never getting off the ground, and claims that the would-be apartment owners understood the risk of a deposit.
Trump “University” So, this may seem like a no-brainer, but you can’t just call a series of seminars a “University” if you have no accreditation to issue degrees. That’s exactly what the Donald did with Trump University, a business lecture and workshop program that he promised would “teach you better than the business schools are going to teach you.” He even would charge attendees up to $35,000 to participate — the equivalent of tuition at a high-end private university. But New York state regulators issued Trump an order to “Immediately cease from any further use of the word ‘University,'” claiming that his use of the word was “misleading and even illegal.” Also, the Texas attorney general’s office began an investigation into Trump U for alleged deceptive trade practices — an inquiry that was dropped after Trump stopped holding seminars in the state. Trump University has since been rebranded the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, to ensnare would-be tycoons with dreams of gaudy wealth under more legal terms.
Donald Trump, your credibility is fired.