President Donald Trump lied his way onto the Forbes 400 list, according to investigative journalist and former Forbes reporter Jonathan Greenberg.
In a blistering Op-Ed in Friday’s Washington Post, Greenberg alleges that in 1984, Trump posed as a Trump Organization official, “John Barron,” who Greenberg said was trying to convince him of “how loaded Donald J. Trump really was.”
In 1984, this writer was reporting for the Forbes 400. At the time, Trump was valued at $200 million. Then the writer got a call.
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 20, 2018
Greenberg recalls that Trump’s personal wealth in 1984 was evaluated at $200 million, even though Trump claimed to be worth nearly five times that amount.
In May 1984, an official from the Trump Organization called to tell me how rich Donald J. Trump was. I was reporting for the Forbes 400, the magazine’s annual ranking of America’s richest people, for the third year. In the previous edition, we’d valued Trump’s holdings at $200 million, only one-fifth of what he claimed to own in our interviews. This time, his aide urged me on the phone, I needed to understand just how loaded Trump really was.
While re-listening to his old recordings recently, Greenberg realized that “John Barron” was actually Trump.
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.
My latest column–in the Washington Post today: https://t.co/8G9luKkLNH
— Jonathan Greenberg (@JournalistJG) April 20, 2018
“Barron” explained to Greenberg that “most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump… you have down Fred Trump [as half owner] . . . but I think you can really use Donald Trump now.”
Trump, through this sockpuppet, was telling me he owned “in excess of 90 percent” of his family’s business. With all the home runs Trump was hitting in real estate, Barron told me, he should be called a billionaire.
Audio of Donald Trump posing as 'John Barron' to get on the Forbes 400 list.
This is just embarrassing. pic.twitter.com/xvozmI5D7s
— Red T Raccoon (@RedTRaccoon) April 20, 2018
Greenberg was immediately skeptical of the claim of Trump being a billionaire.
At the time, I suspected that some of this was untrue. I ran Trump’s assertions to the ground, and for many years I was proud of the fact that Forbes had called him on his distortions and based his net worth on what I thought was solid research.
Ex-Forbes reporter says he was misled into overstating Trump’s wealth, including him in the Forbes 400.
Posing as an aide named ‘John Barron’ in ‘82, Trump convinced the reporter he was worth $100 million; he was actually worth roughly $5 million then. https://t.co/LzltPO7np9
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 20, 2018
Greenberg opines that in hindsight, Trump should never have been on Forbes’ list when it debuted in 1982. Government documents wrote Greenberg proved Trump was grossly overinflating his personal fortune.
In our first-ever list, in 1982, we included him at $100 million, but Trump was actually worth roughly $5 million — a paltry sum by the standards of his super-monied peers — as a spate of government reports and books showed only much later.
“Trump was obsessed” with the list from its onset, Greenberg recalled.
The project could offer a clear, supposedly authoritative declaration of his status as a player, and while many of the super-rich wanted to keep their names off the ranking, Trump was desperate to scale it.
Trump’s intent to mislead Forbes about his wealth was not the only time the future president would pose as another person in outlining his wealth.
Although Trump, posing as Barron, asked Forbes to conduct the conversation off the record, I am publishing it here. I believe an intent to deceive — both with the made-up persona and the content of the call — released me from my good-faith pledge. In a 1990 court case, Trump testified that he had used false names in phone calls to reporters. In 2016, when The Washington Post published a similar recording, Trump denied it was him.