Donald Trump, perhaps the greatest braggart ever to aspire to national office, is hardly shy about flaunting — or rather hyping — his good works. So it has been with his charitable giving, which, for the better part of 30 years, he has regularly exaggerated to the point of plain mendacity.
That Mr. Trump in his public utterances is a serial embellisher is no surprise. Still, the shamelessness by which his actual giving to worthy causes has trailed his public claims of generosity is stunning. And given the relish with which he boasted of his giving, his campaign’s assertion that he has made private, quiet charitable gifts strains credulity.
A painstaking review by The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold, comparing Mr. Trump’s public statements with available records of his giving, found a pattern of exaggeration and unfulfilled pledges.
Speaking of his royalties from the reality television show The Apprentice, which had recently debuted in 2004, Mr. Trump told the radio personality Howard Stern that, “I’m giving the money to charity,” mentioning that as the show’s host he had been paid “a lot more than” $1 million. The money, Mr. Trump said, would go to AIDS research and the Police Athletic League. Yet that year Mr. Trump’s foundation — the entity he established to bestow charitable gifts — gave just $1,000 for AIDS research and $106,000 to the Police Athletic League.
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And while he promised in the late 1980s to give royalties from his successful book, The Art of the Deal, to charities for the homeless, Vietnam veterans, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, only 8 percent of his charitable giving in those years went to those causes. Much more went to society galas, his alma maters and the exclusive schools his children attended.
The issue is not that Mr. Trump has been stingy, although he has made no bequests to his foundation since 2008, and his giving levels before that appear to have been far lower than those of others who have the wealth Mr. Trump insists he enjoys. The issue is the cavernous gulf between his words and deeds.
This appears not to concern the mogul in the least; if it did, he could easily dispel doubts by releasing his tax returns, as all other presidential candidate have done for decades. Because Mr. Trump has bragged of paying as little in taxes as possible, his returns would presumably make clear precisely what charitable gifts he has made — to which organizations and in what amounts — and for which he claimed deductions.
The truth is, Mr. Trump’s exaggerated eleemosynary claims match his long history of embroideries, overstatements and wildly inflated assertions of prowess in other endeavors. The GOP candidate’s whoppers come so fast and thick that it’s easy to lose track, and it’s tempting to ignore much of what he says. That would be a mistake. Contempt for the truth is a disqualifying feature in a candidate for the presidency.
This editorial was originally published by The Washington Post.