BREAKING: The New York Times did it again!

MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2018

Long ago, Trump got his start:
Within our failing American culture, is there any mistaken or ridiculous narrative which didn't get its start at the New York Times?

We'll guess the answer is yes! That said, in yesterday's Washington Post, we learned how Donald J. Trump conned his way onto the original Forbes 400 list way back in 1982.

At the time, Trump was actually worth $5 million, according to yesterday's report. Forbes listed him at $100 million. It was a 95 percent deception, and the start of a long, continuing con.

How did Trump con his way onto the inaugural Forbes 400 list? On page one of yesterday's Outlook section, the story is told by Jonathan Greenberg, the journalist who got conned by Trump when he and Trump were young.

How did Greenberg, and his editors at Forbes, get themselves conned by Trump? Therein lie some important tales.

Greenberg's report is long and intriguing. It runs some 3500 words. We can't vouch for its accuracy in all respects, but it is a first-person account.

That said, we'll single out two basic ways Forbes managed to get itself conned.

For starters, we'll note that Greenberg was very young when he was put in charge of this inaugural project. He was 25 years old, and perhaps a bit easy to con.

In fairness, his editors were surely older. They got tooken by Donald Trump too—and, as noted above, they got tooken good:
GREENBERG (4/22/18): [I]t took decades to unwind the elaborate farce Trump had enacted to project an image as one of the richest people in America. Nearly every assertion supporting that claim was untrue. Trump wasn't just poorer than he said he was. Over time, I have learned that he should not have been on the first three Forbes 400 lists at all. 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.
If Greenberg is right today, he and his editors were off by a factor of 95 percent! How did they manage to bungle so badly?

According to Greenberg, it all began with a typical gong show at the New York Times. In a "fawning profile" of Trump back in 1976, the Times had grossly misstated the number of apartment units he owned.

Dimwittedly, Forbes assumed, six years later, that the Times report had been accurate. Why would anyone ever think that about anything the New York Times does?
GREENBERG: My Forbes editors and I spent many hours deliberating about where to place Trump [on the 1982 list]. Based on what little we knew—his claims; a 1976 New York Times profile that said the Trump Organization owned 22,000 apartments; and Fred's reputation for housing a generation of working-class New Yorkers in Brooklyn and Queens—we ranked Donald and Fred in the bottom tier among major real-estate developers, each with half of a $200 million apartment empire.

Even though I learned later that this was far more money than Donald possessed, it did not satisfy him for the following year's edition. During his 1983 interview, Trump claimed that there were actually 25,000 apartments and that his net worth had ballooned because of the success of his new projects...

[...]

Eventually, nearly every one of Trump's pronouncements about his wealth unraveled.

The number of apartments was the first problem.
The commonly cited figure—that his family owned 25,000 units—began with the mention of 22,000 apartments in that fawning 1976 New York Times profile. In 1988, after I left Forbes, I counted the units and found fewer than 8,000. (I was working briefly on a documentary about Trump that was never completed.) Another Forbes reporter that year, John Anderson, found the same thing.
Note the lunacy there.

The whole thing started with a claim in a fawning New York Times profile. The profile said that Trump owned 22,000 apartment units. Six years later, the people at Forbes simply assumed this was true.

How lax were the journalistic standards at Forbes? This lax:

In 1988, Zimmerman says, he actually counted the apartments! It turned out there were fewer than 8,000 units, not the 22,000 originally reported in that fawning profile.

According to Zimmerman, he was able to conduct this census while "working briefly on a documentary about Trump." Since it took so little time, why didn't he engage in this basic due diligence while at Forbes? In his 3500-word piece, Zimmerman doesn't say.

Assuming Zimmerman's current account is accurate, the journalistic standards at Forbes were virtually non-existent. This brings us to that "fawning 1976 New York Times profile," where he says this gong-show began.

Sadly, the profile can still be seen online.
Trump was 30 years old when the fawning occurred. Sadly, pitifully, the profile started like this:
KLEMESRUD (11/1/76): He is tall, lean and blond, with dazzling white teeth, and he looks ever so much like Robert Redford. He rides around town in a chauffeured silver Cadillac with his initials, DJT, on the plates. He dates slinky fashion models, belongs to the most elegant clubs and, at only 30 years of age, estimates that he is worth “more than $200 million.”

Flair. It's one of Donald J. Trump's favorite words, and both he, his friends and his enemies use it when describing his way of life as well as his business style as New York's No. 1 real estate promoter of the middle 1970's.
Apparently, dazzling teeth helped a fellow date slinky models during those disco days. Before a fellow knew it, he was worth $200 million—or was at least saying he was.

If Zimmerman is right today, Klemesrud repeated a wildly inaccurate claim about Trump's net worth. The wild misstatement about the apartments appeared in paragraph 4:
KLEMESRUD (continuing directly): “If a man has flair,” the energetic, outspoken Mr. Trump said the other day, “and is smart and somewhat conservative and has a taste for what people want, he's bound to be successful in New York.”

Mr. Trump, who is president of the Brooklyn based Trump Organization, which owns and manages 22,000 apartments, currently has three imaginative Manhattan real‐estate projects in the works. And much to his delight, his brash, controversial style has prompted comparisons with his flamboyant idol, the late William Zeckendorf Sr., who actually developed projects as striking as those Mr. Trump is proposing.
Sad. The inaccurate claim which started it all was presented there as a fact.

The New York Times published that dreck in 1976. Six years later, a kid reporter at Forbes took that statement about the apartments as a fact, then proceeded to bungle from there. Trump got on the inaugural Forbes 400 list and built his myth upon this initial rock.

We return to our origianl question. Is there any stupid story which didn't start at the Times?

In 1964, a bungled front-page report in the Times started the Kitty Genovese myth, a major tale of the era. In 1992, bungled front-page reporting in the Times started the history-changing Whitewater pseudo-scandal.

In 1999, Katharine Seelye "accidentally" "misquoted" Candidate Gore about Love Canal, then refused to accept correction. This set the history-changing AL GORE, LIAR narrative in stone. And in 1976, the Times included a bogus fact in a fawning profile of Trump. Six years later, the dopes at Forbes simply accepted it as a fact, or so Greenberg now says.

For twenty years, we've tried to tell you—these people are slightly subhuman. In their essence, they're narrative-driving clowns.

That said, Donald Trump had dazzling teeth. In the minds of the dopes at a famous newspaper, the public deserved to be told!

30 comments:

  1. The idea of 'conning your way onto the Forbes 400 list' is utterly hilarious. As if their bullshit 'list' is the medal of honor or something.

    And thanks for another confirmation that Donald the Greatest is indeed an authentic American hero.

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    Replies
    1. I'll give President Deadbeat credit for showing what a joke the whole 'rich people are awesome" schtick is. Even more so, because he did it while woefully in debt.

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    2. I knew you can dig it, dembot. I'll make a real murkan outta ya yet.

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    3. Stupid, dumb, inane troll tricks, parts 2 & 3.

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    4. 7:41 yet you keep feeding

      Delete
  2. "In their essence, they're narrative-driving clowns."

    Yes, and their narrative is that Conservatives/ Republicans are the "Red, White, and Blue", "USA Number 1", "commie (Russian) hating patriots" and liberals/ Democrats are weak push-overs.
    Thus, when their right-wing FBI informant anonymously told them there was no Russian Trump connection in their investigation, they fell for it and printed tat lie because it fit into their narrative.

    BTW, a halfway decent media criticism blog, might want to point out that anonymous sources which lie to reporters should be outed for the entire world to see, or the media is just spreading the lies of anyone who wants to remain anonymous.

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    1. There is a difference between a source that is anonymous to the journalist and a source that is anonymous to the public but known to the journalist. Protecting sources is part of protecting access to information that otherwise would not be available to the public.

      Trump lies to everyone. It is who he is and how he works. This is just another instance of that. Blaming journalists, whatever their age, for the lies told by a con man seems unfair. Con men are good at telling believable lies -- they know how to read people and assess what they will believe. I have no doubt that by the time he was 30 Trump was very good at telling lies. It is abnormal to be so distrustful that you would be able to identify a con, since the essence of a con is believability because sociopaths have been manipulating people since early childhood. So blame Trump, not some 25 year old journalist. The president is a liar and he deserves to be outed and his supporters need to account for why they are willing to follow someone who lies with every sentence he speaks.

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    2. The president is a liar and he deserves to be outed and his supporters need to account for why they are willing to follow someone who lies with every sentence he speaks.

      I think Hillary Clinton's biggest mistake was underestimating the shear volume of unmitigated horseshit tRump's followers were willing to swallow. Also, the new paradigm that being a lying sack of shit like tRump is a positive, not a negative to the deplorable mob. We've seen that proposition advanced repeatedly right here by tRump cult members like our resident troll, David.

      I think this new paradigm is still very hard for normal America to understand and I don't think the ramifications of it has not fully penetrated the country yet.

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    3. "Protecting sources is part of protecting access to information that otherwise would not be available to the public."

      ??????????
      The value of anonymous sources (to the source, to the journalist, to journalism, and to the public) is in uncovering or confirming facts/ truths, while protecting the source from retaliation and recrimination through anonymity.

      Protecting the anonymity of sources who lie to journalists protects the source, but harms the journalist/ journalism/ and the public.

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    4. First, you don't rely on a single source without seeking corroboration, in case they are lying. Second, you don't out your source for lying because no one will confide in you again. You just don't use that source any more.

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    5. Second, you don't out your source for lying because no one will confide in you again. You just don't use that source any more.

      But the very act of a source feeding you false information with a very definite and obvious political purpose could be the real story that the public has a right to know about.

      Delete
    6. You out that source, so that a journalist won't use that source again.
      Sure, the lying sources won't trust you in the future, but how does that hurt the journalist or journalism?

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    7. What are these 'journalists' y'all speak of? Certainly not the clowns working for the establishment media?

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    8. Mao,
      Grown-ups are discussing grown-up things. Go away for now. We'll let you know when your nonsense is needed to keep things light.

      Delete
  3. At the risk of being redundant:
    Trump is liar and thief.
    And Putin's bitch.

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  4. The 1976 Times article was a fluff piece about a relative newcomer to the scene. At that time, Trump wasn't a terribly important person, and serious investigative fact-checking of his claims was not the author's intent.

    If Forbes seriously wanted to know Trump's rich guy ranking, it was up to them to do the leg work and not rely on an old fluff piece in the Times, which, after all, was merely repeating what Trump himself kept claiming.

    There has been fairly well-known questioning or even debunking of Trump's fortune in the years since, as for example in Tim O'Brien's 2005 book "TrumpNation", for which Trump sued O'Brien. According to a 2016 Washington Post story:

    'Trump sued. He later told The Post that he intended to hurt O’Brien, whom he called a “lowlife sleazebag.”
    “I didn’t read [the book], to be honest with you. . . . I never read it. I saw some of the things they said,” Trump said later. “I said: ‘Go sue him. It will cost him a lot of money.’ ”'

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-election/trump-lies/?utm_term=.ff554e13d1e9

    Not to mention the demands made for him to release his tax returns back in 2016.

    But Trump refused. His business is privately held, and thus opaque to most scrutiny. His voters never seemed to question their hero's self-reporting of his income. The Republican Party failed to require financial disclosures. The media can only investigate up to a point before they hit the brick wall of privacy in a system that protects and rewards the secrets of the wealthy.

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  5. So now our "failing" journalistic culture, as embodied in the work of The NY Times, goes back at least to 1964. Undoubtedly, the year of the fail can be pushed even further back if one looks hard enough. How about examining the influence of Hearst on the journalism of the 19th century? Some pretty egregious stuff there.

    It's a pretty good bet that human foibles and flaws can be found in any human endeavor, including journalism, at any time in history. The only conclusion one can draw is not that journalism is uniquely culpable, but that humans are prone to mistakes and bad choices.

    There is good journalism and bad journalism at all times. There is good and bad in the Times, as in any other newspaper.

    The point being that the Msm is probably no worse than it has historically been. Perhaps it's even better on the whole. The problem nowadays is the plethora of alternative news sources that do not even pretend to operate by any journalistic standards.

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    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I like this post 2:03, because it made me think. It reminded me of how “muckrakers” came to be named. At the time, there was no such thing as a msm, at least as we know it today. Muckrakers are journalists in the true sense of the word, and they are so-named because they defy the msm narratives of their time.

      “GREENBERG: My Forbes editors and I spent many hours deliberating about where to place Trump [on the 1982 list].”

      But it wasn’t until 1988 that Greenburg decided to actually “muckrake.” Instead, he debated where to place Trump in terms of wealth. Good dog almighty, a ranking of the richest people on Earth! That is a conundrum. I suppose I have to give him props for having a conscience and finally, really doing some legwork. Just how rich is he???

      Greenburg helped feed the narrative that made Trump look legit. “Reality TV” came from stage right and made Trump a star. Joe and Mika finally (sort of) said he was a poo-poo head, but way too late. Maybe they were reading Bob when they finally saw the light.

      The problem is that today’s msm, especially with television, has perfected a form of manufactured consent, and they tend to have a herd mentality, given their corporate sponsorship. I’ll never forget the days leading up to the illegal invasion of Iraq. They were actually showing graphics of the weapons we were going to use to fuck those motherfuckers up!

      Sorry, getting off track:

      “The problem nowadays is the plethora of alternative news sources that do not even pretend to operate by any journalistic standards.”

      Yes, that is a problem. But the problem of a lack of journalistic standards exists within the msm as well, as evidenced by Bob’s post.

      Leroy

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  6. The error should be measured as a % of the true number. If Forbes reported Trump's wealth at $100 million when it was actually $5 million, they were off by 1900%.

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    Replies
    1. I don't like percents much over 100%. I prefer to say the estimate was 20 times too great. Isn't that easier to understand?

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    2. David, how do you calculate a percentage of a percentage? For example: “7% is 75% more than 4%.” I read that somewhere. Is that an accurate statement?

      Thanks,
      Leroy

      Delete
    3. How do you measure the percentage with negative numbers?
      As in, Forbes reported Trump's wealth at $100 Million, but Trump was actually $30 Million in debt. What percentage was Forbes off by using those numbers?

      Delete
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