Former Forbes writer Jonathan Greenberg has made the claim that President Trump lied his way into the Forbes 400 list during the 1980s.
Greenberg claims that Trump, using the pseudonym of John Barron, convinced Forbes that the then real estate broker was worth $100 million. In reality, Trump was worth only $5 million.
Trump frequently donned the Barron moniker to call publicists and major magazines to seed stories of his alleged exploits. He’d call up reporters and brag about the money he made and the women he’d been with, with surprisingly few reporters seeing through the iconic celebrities ruse.
Following his divorce from Marla Maples, Trump used the Barron character, a name he later gave to his youngest son, to tell tabloids: “he’s coming out of a marriage, and he’s starting to do tremendously well financially.”
Trump has tepidly admitted to lying to members of the press under the name in the past, but as of late when recordings were played to him of his ramblings in character he denies that it sounded remotely like him.
His ability to trick reporters into believing his personal exploits honed his ability to stay on message and play to his audience.
“This was a model Trump would use for the rest of his career, telling a lie so cosmic that people believed that some kernel of it had to be real,” Greenberg said. “The tactic landed him a place he hadn’t earned on the Forbes list — and led to future accolades, press coverage and deals. It eventually paved a path toward the presidency.”
Reflecting on his calls with Trump Greenberg finds it hard to believe he was duped.
“When I recently rediscovered and listened, for the first time since that year, to the tapes I made of this and other phone calls, I was amazed that I didn’t see through the ruse: Although Trump altered some cadences and affected a slightly stronger New York accent, it was clearly him.”
Greenberg writes that through there research they found that Trump had an income of only $100,000 in 1979 and that he was operating at a $3.4 million taxable loss for the year.
Among the other lies he told Forbes, Trump also lied about having a major stake in his father’s company. In reality, Trump had zero equity in his father’s business.
Trump has claimed that he is currently worth $10 billion, but has refused to release tax returns that would confirm the number. Forbes currently estimates that he is closer to $3 billion in total assets.