The plaque read:
"This memorial was made possible by the love and generosity of:
Rita and Patrick Ewing
Anna and Rupert Murdoch
Donald J. Trump."
The Washington Post has spent weeks now looking for proof that Trump has given millions of dollars of his own money to charity, as he has claimed. So far, The Post has not found that proof. After calling 249 charities with some apparent connection to Trump, The Post has found just one donation — of less than $10,000 that Trump made from his own pocket between 2008 and May of this year. In May, under pressure from the media, Trump made good on a pledge to give $1 million to a veterans' charity.
So this plaque in Harlem looked like a strong new lead. Here was a charity, thanking Trump personally for his gift.
It wasn't quite what it seemed.
The "generosity" referred to on this plaque turns out to be a single gift of $30,000, which Trump gave to Hale House during a visit in 1992. At the time, the charity was struggling because of a loss of funding from New York City. "This is to help keep you going," Trump told Hale herself, in a visit on her 87th birthday, according to news accounts from the time. That was a big gift, but it didn't make Trump the biggest donor on that plaque: a news story from the time said that Ono, the widow of John Lennon, gave $20,000 ever year.
At the time of the gift, according to a story in the Associated Press, Trump's net worth was estimated to be between $500 million and $1.6 billion.
But, in this case, he wasn't giving away any his own money.
Instead, the check came from the Trump Taj Mahal, an Atlantic City casino that had recently emerged from bankruptcy. At the time of the gift, according to an AP story, Trump had "relinquished 50 percent ownership in the Taj to banks in exchange for a lower interest rate."
And, in a way, the donation appears to have benefited Trump himself: An item in the Chicago Sun-Times said that, as he gave the gift, Trump got "a vow that Hale House would hold its annual fund-raiser next February at his Plaza Hotel."
So his name went on the plaque. But Trump never gave a donation of his own money to Hale House, at that time or later, said Mohan Sivaloganathan, an official at Sheltering Arms, a charity that took over some of Hale House's operations recently. Clara Hale died in December 1992, months after Trump's visit. Her home for needy children shut down in 2008, after the New York Daily News exposed massive financial mismanagement by Hale's daughter and son-in-law, who had taken over the operation.