All politicians like to brag about their abilities and achievements. But rarely has a presidential hopeful emerged like Donald Trump, who consistently touts his résumé and plans for the nation in sweeping and over-the-top terms. Trump is particularly unique in how he talks about himself. Plenty of would-be presidents make dubious claims about what they have accomplished in elected office (created millions of jobs! slashed spending!). Few make such claims about their personal attributes. Trump has no such hesitation. Just before the Iowa caucuses, here are five of the biggest myths Donald Trump tells about himself.
Trump is not shy about his intellectual prowess. As he tweeted in 2013: “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”
Of course, “smart” is a bit subjective. There’s book smarts as well as street smarts. Many would say Trump has run a pretty smart campaign. But clearly he’s saying that his brain is very sharp — as he puts it, “super-genius stuff.’’ At one point, Trump rebutted criticism from columnist George Will and GOP consultant Karl Rove by saying: “I’m much smarter than them. I think I have a much higher IQ. I think I went to a better college — better everything.”
Trump’s college background, in fact, is often his key piece of evidence for his intellectual superiority. But there’s less here than meets the eye. Trump did graduate from the Wharton School of business at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League college. But Trump did not get an MBA from Wharton; he has a much less prestigious undergraduate degree. He was a transfer student who arrived at Wharton after two years at Fordham University, which U.S. News & World Report currently ranks 66th among national universities. (Besides, simply going to an Ivy League school doesn’t prove you’re a genius.)
Gwenda Blair, in her 2001 book “The Trumps,” said that Trump’s grades at Fordham were just “respectable” and that he got into Wharton mainly because he had an interview with an admissions officer who had been a high school classmate of his older brother. And Wharton’s admissions team surely knew that Trump was from one of New York’s wealthiest families.
For years, numerous media reports said Trump graduated first in his class from Wharton, but that’s wrong. The 1968 commencement program does not list him as graduating with any sort of honors. In fact, the Boston Globe reported that he barely made an impression at all: “His former classmates said he seemed a student who spoke up a lot but rarely shined in class, who barely participated in campus activities, shunned fraternity parties.”
One of Trump’s most controversial claims is that he saw a television news report about thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001. That statement ended up on the Washington Post Fact Checker’s list of 2015’s biggest Pinocchios.
Trump insisted he was right because he has such a great memory.
But no television network could find such a clip — though extensive searches were made. No news reports were tracked down to validate Trump’s claim of “thousands.” The closest thing ever found was a local newscast at the time, from a CBS affiliate in New York, that reported on the arrest of eight men who neighbors said had celebrated the attack. That’s a far cry from thousands. There were also video clips of several Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories cheering. But that wasn’t New Jersey — and again, it wasn’t thousands.
Trump also tried to point to a line in a Washington Post article written days after the attacks that said law enforcement authorities detained and questioned some people who were allegedly seen celebrating . But when one of the reporters, Serge Kovaleski, said the article did not validate Trump’s claim, the real estate magnate mocked Kovaleski’s disability. (Kovaleski has a chronic condition that limits his mobility.)
Trump later denied doing so, claiming that he didn’t know the reporter — even though Kovaleski had closely covered Trump in the 1980s and 1990s and had interviewed him several times.
Maybe Trump should rephrase his boast: “I have the world’s most selective memory.”
Trump frequently touts his financial acumen. He often says he is worth $10 billion, though most analysts say that is exaggerated. Bloomberg News closely studied his 92-page financial disclosure report and concluded that he is really worth $2.9 billion.
That may sound like a lot of money. But don’t forget that Trump inherited a lot of money, too — about $40 million in 1974. In 1978, his net worth was estimated by BusinessWeek at $100 million. The Post’s Wonkblog calculated that if Trump had gotten out of real estate, put his money in an index fund based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and reinvested the dividends, he’d be worth twice as much — $6 billion — today.
National Journal noted that Warren Buffett was also worth $40 million in 1974 — and he managed to turn that into $67 billion today. But then Buffett doesn’t have a long list of business flops, such as Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka, various Trump casinos, Trump Steaks and Trump University.
Trump keeps saying that unlike his rivals, he’s paying for his own presidential campaign, but that’s largely false.
At the start of his campaign, he loaned his political operation $1.8 million. As of Oct. 1, he had given his campaign an additional $104,829.27 — but he had also received $3.9 million from donors, which accounted for the vast majority of the $5.8 million his campaign had taken in by then. His campaign website features a prominent “donate” button on its homepage. Trump has spent $5.4 million, and interestingly, about one-quarter of his spending has gone to Trump-owned entities (mainly his private jet company).
In January, Trump launched an ad campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, saying he planned to spend $2 million. He also claimed that his campaign was $35 million to $40 million below budget. Ultimately, all of his spending — and where the money came from — will have to be disclosed in campaign finance reports. The odds are his personal share of the spending will be less than 50 percent.
When people have criticized Trump for promising to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border or proposing a ban on all Muslims from entering the country, he has defended himself by saying he’s not motivated by racism. Still, he has a pattern of racially tinged remarks and actions.
The very first article about Trump in the New York Times — it appeared 42 years ago — was headlined “Major Landlord Accused Of Antiblack Bias in City.” Trump was quoted saying the charges in a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department against the company he and his father ran were “absolutely ridiculous.” The sides settled — but three years later, the Justice Department charged Trump’s organization with continuing to discriminate against blacks.
When five black and Latino teenagers were implicated in a brutal attack on a white woman jogging in Central Park in 1989, Trump took out full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty for “criminals of every age.” The suspects were convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence — and Trump then called their wrongful-conviction settlement a “disgrace.”
Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino President John R. O’Donnell, in the 1991 book “Trumped,” alleged that Trump once said that “laziness is a trait in blacks.” He also claimed Trump said, of his accountants: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” (Trump has called O’Donnell a disgruntled employee, but he has not disputed the remarks. “The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true,” he told Playboy in an interview published in May 1997.)
Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition in December, Trump made a speech riddled with Jewish stereotypes, such as: “Look, I’m a negotiator like you folks; we’re negotiators.” And: “I know why you’re not going to support me. You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”
Another Trump observation: “A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. . . . If I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I believe they do have an actual advantage.’’
When Trump launched his campaign, he made a broad-brush accusation against Mexico: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing . . . drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”