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CNN's Spitzer pushes back at Trump's business boasts

April 22, 2011|By James Oliphant
(Joe Skipper/REUTERS )

It was inevitable that Trumpmentum would eventually smash into a Trumpian takedown, a collision of unstoppable, irresistable, and spectacular forces.

After several weeks during which the Donald has had his pick of media platforms, some in and outside the media are beginning to ask questions about Trump’s possible candidacy beyond his preoccupation with President Obama’s origins.

Earlier in the week, after Trump's will-he-or-won't-he presidential bid was criticized by former Bush strategist Karl Rove and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the pro-business Club for Growth began a campaign to discredit Trump, seizing upon his calls for universal healthcare and tax increases a decade ago and suggesting that Trump was now opportunistically casting himself as a conservative.

Last night, Eliot Spitzer and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on CNN joined the party, examining the real-estate mogul’s statements about some of his past projects, and concluding that Trump was apparently guilty of—and this might shock you—puffing up his business accomplishments.

Citing a deposition in a lawsuit Trump filed against an author who wrote a book about him, Trump inflated the number of units sold in a glitzy Las Vegas condominium development.

Trump also wildly exaggerated the number of mansions built along an oceanside golf development in Southern California, Spitzer said, and misrepresented what he was paid for delivering a seminar on wealth-building.

Critics, of course, have suggested for years that there are wide disparities between Trump’s self-evaluation of his personal wealth and outside estimates.

Spitzer pointed to Trump’s claims in 2004 that he was worth $3.5 billion, noting that one bank, North Fork Bank, assessed it at $1.2 billion and another, Deutsch Bank, put it at $788 million. (As they say, these are good problems to have.)

At one point in the deposition Spitzer cited, Trump conceded that he has at times exaggerated his wealth, saying, "I'm no different from a politician running for office. . . . You don't want to say negative things."

Spitzer, the former governor of New York who resigned over a sex scandal, found fault with that viewpoint.

“Donald Trump's career has been one of brilliant marketing. Marketing in his case that has a great deal of bravado built into it. His entire life story is one of ‘I am bigger than everybody else. I am better than everybody else.’ And of course, half of that the public understands and I think appreciates is sort of - if not smoke and mirrors, a story of exaggeration,” Spitzer said.

“On the other hand, it's unfair of him to then turn around and say, look, everybody does this, which isn't simply the case, certainly when it comes to financials and it also is not the case despite the public perception when it comes to politics,” he said. “The sort of aggrandizement - self-aggrandizement he's participating here is not accepted and the media won't let him get away with it.”

Toobin said that if Trump does, his GOP rivals could have a field day with Trump's past statements.

"They could beat him over the head with this," Toobin said. "Now will Mitt Romney do it? Will Tim Pawlenty do it? Will Barack Obama do it? They might because there is a lot of material here to be exploited."

(Romney may have the most motivation. Trump has been openly dismissive of his vaunted business acumen.)

Trump found a friendlier outlet Thursday night, appearing by phone on Greta Van Susteren’s program on Fox News. He used that occasion to attack Rove.

"Karl Rove is the man that ran Bush into the ground,” Trump said. “Bush finished so weak that we ended up getting Obama. [Rove] ran the man into the ground. And the more I see about Karl Rove, the more I realize: maybe it wasn't completely Bush's fault.... so I don't want to listen to Karl Rove."

On the same program, Trump said that he had no intention of backing down on the Obama birth-certificate issue, while also restating his belief that the United States is being too passive in Libya, and that the U.S. armed forces should go in and “take the oil.”

james.oliphant@latimes.com

Watch Spitzer on CNN here:

   

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