Donald Trump is currently facing three lawsuits—two class-action suits in San Diego and one brought by the attorney general of New York state—which allege that the “Trump University” program he ran from 2005 to 2010 was a scam. Whatever result is reached in those cases, it’s clear that Trump “University” was at least, in layperson’s terms, a ripoff—nothing more than a series of real-estate seminars of limited usefulness that ended by pressuring “students” to take another expensive seminar. Trump U ignored the state of the New York’s warning that it was falsely advertising itself as a university; it got a D-minus rating from the Better Business Bureau; it’s accused of defrauding more than 5,000 people.
What Trump did when confronted about these facts by Marco Rubio and Fox News’ Megyn Kelly at Thursday’s Republican debate was to get angry, flustered, and dishonest.
Let’s review his claims.
Trump University had a 98 percent approval rating. The Washington Post has reported that the 98 percent number is “generally” based on surveys that were given after a free initial seminar. “They were not anonymous,” the Post wrote, “and people were encouraged to give positive ratings in hopes of receiving program discounts or a certificate of completion. [The 98 percent number] is not a credible figure.”
Trump University got an “A” from the Better Business Bureau. Trump, after the debate, tweeted an image of an “A” rating for the “Trump Entrepreneur Institute,” which is what Trump University changed its name to sometime in 2010 or thereafter. (New York state had told it to stop advertising itself as if it were a real school in 2005.) Trump U did, however, have a D-minus rating at one point before it was renamed—and Politifact has reported that the renamed Trump Entrepreneur Institute also at different times had B and C ratings.
A lead plaintiff is now getting out of the case because it’s “so bad for her.” This might be the most upsetting thing Trump said. He seemed to imply that a lead plaintiff is leaving one of the San Diego suits because she realized she had made some sort of mistake or that she was going to lose her case. But what that plaintiff’s attorney says is that she’s trying to leave the case (there’s a hearing about whether she’ll be allowed to do so on March 11) because she is afraid of Trump retaliating against her. From the Los Angeles Times:
In a motion to the judge, [Tarla] Makaeff’s lawyer says her client has endured health problems, family loss and financial troubles since the case began, and she is ready to let the other three class representatives — including Chula Vista resident Sonny Low — carry the case forward.
“Subjecting herself to the intense media attention and likely barbs from Trump and his agents and followers simply would not be healthy for her,” the motion argues … Makaeff’s lawyer said that even after Trump’s defamation suit was dismissed, her client has lived in fear of financial ruin, and that “she still has great trepidation about retaliation.”
As Kelly correctly pointed out, Trump’s defamation suit against Makaeff was thrown out and he was ordered to pay $800,000 for her legal fees. Tonight Trump called the suit that Makaeff is involved in “a minor civil case.”
Donald Trump has asserted that Mexico is intentionally sending rapists across the southern border, that thousands of Muslims celebrated 9/11 in New Jersey, that 81 percent of white murder victims are killed by black people, that an American general ended a terrorist uprising by executing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, and that Barack Obama wasn’t born in America. None of these things are true. And tonight, when he was finally put under some real pressure, we saw Trump begin to talk about his own customers in the same dishonest, contemptuous way he talks about Muslims, Latino immigrants, and black Americans. When Donald Trump is pushed—by anyone—he lashes back with hysterical, self-deluded slurs. It’s the only song he sings. And Jesus, am I tired of hearing it.