Trump, Posing as “John Barron,” Lied About His Wealth to Get on the Forbes 400 List

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Trump, Posing as “John Barron,” Lied About His Wealth to Get on the Forbes 400 List

The general public now meets the constant stream of lies that spills from Donald Trump with little surprise. That reaction is one built upon the president’s lifelong practice of stretching the truth to his benefit, constantly crossing the threshold of taste to prop up his public image. Friday, in a Washington Post report, one of Trump’s first examples of duping the public and the press was exposed after 34 years.

Jonathan Greenberg, who helped compile the Forbes 400 list in the early ‘80s, revealed through recorded conversations that in 1984, a Trump executive named John Barron contacted him to promote that Trump’s wealth had vastly increased since the previous year’s evaluation of his net worth, citing that Trump had an ownership stake in the family’s real estate empire “in excess of 90 percent” and pushing Greenberg to state his worth made him a billionaire. “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,” stated Barron.

The only problem was that John Barron was actually Donald Trump. At the time, Trump’s use of his “John Barron” alter ego wasn’t widely known, but his use of the moniker as a spokesman in the face of unfavorable news and provocations was exposed during a 1990 lawsuit during which he testified under oath, “I believe on occasion I used that name.”

While Greenberg didn’t realize Trump’s ruse at the time, he still heavily researched Trump’s actual holdings, putting him on the list at $400 million, a much lower total than he claimed, but even that total was too high. Trump’s claims that he bought any portion of his father’s real estate empire were disproven by his father’s will, which stated that Fred Trump retained ownership of his properties until his death in 1999. Upon further review, Greenberg now claims that his rankings of Trump between 1981 and 1984 were vastly bloated—even more so than originally thought—stating that Trump was actually worth roughly $5 million in 1982 instead of the $100 million listed in Forbes. Greenberg added that Trump was the one person most obsessed with his standing on the list in its history.

“John Barron” was only one of Trump’s tactics, routinely sending his confrontational lawyer Roy Cohn to distort his business deals and holdings to anyone expressing doubt. Tactics such as these, while publicly disclosed, continued to be used to prop up Trump’s reputation through his resurgence in ‘90s and even further into his dealings in politics. During the 2016 election, Trump constantly boasted about his fortune, including one statement that claimed his net worth was “in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS,” despite not releasing his tax returns and keeping any analysis of his finances behind a thick veil.

Much like the majority of the words that come out of his mouth, Trump’s decades-long effort to deceive the public about his finances speaks to his approach to leadership. His constant obsession with how he’s perceived is nothing new, but having such a man in the Oval Office remains a blight on the nation’s reputation. For a man so obsessed with lists, he must surely be happy with his high ranking on the pantheon of the historically worst U.S. presidents.

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