This article has been updated.
This cover — dated March 1, 2009 — looks like an impressive memento from Trump’s pre-presidential career. To club members eating lunch, or golfers waiting for a pro-shop purchase, it seemed to be a signal that Trump had always been a man who mattered. Even when he was just a reality TV star, Trump was the kind of star who got a cover story in Time.
But that wasn’t true.
The Time cover is a fake.
There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time magazine. And there was no issue at all in 2009 that had Trump on the cover.
In fact, the cover on display at Trump's clubs, observed recently by a reporter visiting one of the properties, contains several small but telling mistakes. Its red border is skinnier than that of a genuine Time cover, and, unlike the real thing, there is no thin white border next to the red. The Trump cover's secondary headlines are stacked on the right side — on a real Time cover, they would go across the top.
And it has two exclamation points. Time headlines don’t yell.
“I can confirm that this is not a real TIME cover,” Kerri Chyka, a spokeswoman for Time Inc., wrote in an email to The Washington Post.
At 5 p.m. Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Time said that the magazine had asked the Trump Organization to remove the phony cover from the walls where it was on display.
So how did Trump — who spent an entire campaign and much of his presidency accusing the mainstream media of producing "fake news" — wind up decorating his properties with a literal piece of phony journalism?
The Trump Organization did not respond to questions this week about who made the cover and why it was displayed at Trump clubs. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say whether Trump had known that the cover wasn’t real.
“We couldn’t comment on the decor at Trump Golf clubs one way or another,” Sanders wrote in an email.
The cover seems to fit a broader pattern for Trump, who has often boasted of his appearances on Time's cover and adorned his Trump Tower office with images of himself from magazines and newspapers. Trump has made claims about himself — about his charitable giving, his business success, even the size of the crowd at his inauguration — that are not supported by the facts.
In this case, Trump's golf clubs might seem like places where he wouldn't need to stretch the truth. Reality is flattering enough. The clubs are monuments to Trump's success — they bear his name and are filled with his images. But, still, his staff added an extra trophy that was phony.
It is not clear who created this fake Time cover — or why.
Its date might be a clue: March 1, 2009, was the season debut of Trump’s show “The Celebrity Apprentice.” But a transcript of that show offers no answers. In that episode, various B-list celebrities competed to sell cupcakes, and Trump fired comedian Andrew Dice Clay for poor performance. Nobody mentioned Time magazine.
While it’s not difficult to mock up a fake cover using graphic-design software, whoever made this one sought out real Time headlines, to add to the fake.
There are secondary headlines on the Trump cover that tout stories on President Barack Obama, climate change and the financial crisis. Two of those are taken from a real March 2, 2009, issue of Time, which featured actress Kate Winslet on the cover. But the issue makes no mention of Trump.
Another possible clue to the fake cover's origins: The fake bar code on the bottom right. An identical bar code shows up online in a graphic-design tutorial posted in 2010, in which a Peruvian designer laid out how to make a fake Time cover — complete with this bar code, for extra realism. The graphic designer did not immediately respond to questions from The Post.
The Post found that the fake cover had been hung in at least four of Trump’s 17 golf clubs.
At Trump’s resort in Doral, Fla., outside Miami, the fake image hangs in two prominent spots.
In the pro shop, it shares a wall with 11 other framed magazine pages — all of them highlighting Trump, another member of the Trump family or a Trump golf course.
Among the covers with Trump's face on them, the Time cover looks like one of the most impressive. The others are old — such as a 1984 cover of GQ — or from less-prominent titles, such as Fairways + Greens magazine and TV Guide Canada. Those two publications are out of print.
A copy of the fake cover also hangs in Champions, the Doral resort's sports bar. It faces a framed cover of Fortune magazine from 2004, showing Trump's face with the headline "Trumped." That one is real.
In Virginia, the phony Time cover hangs on the wall of the members’ dining room at the Trump golf course in suburban Loudoun County, near Washington. Trump has visited that club more frequently since moving into the White House. In early June, the president ate lunch in that dining room with football star Peyton Manning and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
A photo taken during their lunch shows that Trump's chair faced the fake Time cover.
At the same club, Trump's staff put up a historical marker declaring that there had been a Civil War battle on the site — and that the adjacent Potomac River became a "River of Blood." Historians say this battle never happened. The marker was first reported by the New York Times.
In addition, the fake cover was hung up near the entrance of Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., according to a photo taken in July 2016 by Scott Keeler, a photographer at the Tampa Bay Times. Keeler posted it Tuesday on Twitter.
The Time cover also appears to have been hung up at Trump's golf resort in Doonbeg, in western Ireland. Trump bought the club in 2014. Photos posted on TripAdvisor show it on the wall of a dining room. But when a reporter visited the club this past weekend, it was gone.
A bartender later found it in the manager's office. Officials at the club could not explain why it had been moved.
And at Trump’s Turnberry club in Scotland, employees said they recognized the cover. It had been added after Trump bought the course in 2014, said the employees, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment to the media. One employee said the fake cover had previously hung in the resort’s pub, called the Duel in the Sun after a famous golf match played at Turnberry in 1977.
But, she said, the cover was taken down a few weeks ago.
“We used to have a Time magazine cover up — aye, it was there for ages and ages, as long as I’ve been here. I know the one you’re on about,” the employee said. “But they came and took it down a while back.”
In its place, the club had hung up an old-timey photo of the course.
Club officials did not respond to queries about why it was taken down. The employee said it was part of a general reduction in photos of Trump.
“We certainly have been hearing more grumbling about all the stuff like that up on the walls since his election,” the employee said. “From Americans, mostly, funny enough. That’s why we all assumed they started taking some of his photos off the walls.”
“But it was just a guess. I don’t actually have a scooby,” the employee added, using an expression that means, “I don’t have a clue.”
The Post also looked for the fake cover at two Trump courses in the United States that are open to the public, in the Bronx and in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. It was not on display at either. The rest of Trump's courses are members-only, making it difficult to get inside to look at the decor.
The image does not appear to be among the many framed magazine covers that adorn Trump's old office in Trump Tower, based on photos of the office.
One thing that is clear, from the president’s past statements, is that he views the cover of Time as a significant honor.
Trump has bragged that he's been on more Time covers than anyone. "I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine," he said during a January speech at CIA headquarters.
That is wrong. Richard Nixon has appeared on far more than Trump.
In a 2016 interview, when Trump was a candidate, he offered a mental tally of how many times he had appeared on the magazine’s cover.
"I think I was on the cover of Time magazine twice in my life and like six times in the last number of months. So you tell me, which is more important, real estate or politics, okay?" Trump said. "I have six for politics, and I have two for real estate or whatever they put me on for."
But that count was wrong.
According to Time magazine's tally, Trump had been on the cover only once before he got into politics. That was in January 1989.
Francisco Alvarado in Doral, Nash Riggins in Turnberry, Yvonne Gordon in Doonbeg, Philip Bump in New York, Rob Kuznia in Rancho Palos Verdes and Alice Crites in Washington contributed to this report.