The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has been a one man wrecking crew in terms of debunking Trump’s claims about his charitable giving over the years. As always with these stories, it is important to note that Trump’s money is his own, he can do with it what he likes, if he doesn’t want to give any of it to charity, that’s his business.
The problem with Trump is that he repeatedly either brags about giving to charity or takes credit for giving to charity, when his claims do not match up. So Trump loves the adulation that comes with being thought of as a great philanthropist, but he does not as much love the part where he has to write checks. In fact, Trump brags so often about his charitable giving that it makes his defenders’ claim that he can’t prove any of this charitable giving because he doesn’t want to brag one of the most laughable claims in politics.
Anyway, so this one goes back a bit, all the way to last August. The specific claim is that Trump gave $20 million to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis – and more specifically, that this was money he could have used to run TV ads for his campaign, which would have made this a recent gift. Now, Trump doesn’t make the claim out loud himself, but the claim was made by his buddy Phil Ruffin, who was introducing him at the event. During the course of Ruffin lauding Trump’s generosity in giving this gift, Trump nodded to the crowd twice and mouthed “thank you” as they applauded him.
Later that day, as Fahrenthold noted, Trump again took credit for the donation:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2015
Fahrenthold did some digging and found that it’s likely that no such gift exists, but that instead the reference was to a promised donation from the Eric Trump Foundation – a non-profit which is completely separate from Donald Trump and with which Trump has no official relationship:
But when The Washington Post looked for evidence to back up Ruffin’s story it could find none.
At St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, a world-famous cancer center in Memphis, spokeswoman Kelly Schulz said they had never announced a large gift of this kind from Trump. St. Jude’s does not release detailed information about donors, so The Post could not determine what — if anything — Trump has donated to St. Jude’s from his own pocket.
A spokeswoman for Ruffin, Michelle Knoll, said she had seen no evidence that would verify Ruffin’s claim. She said Ruffin was out of the country now, and could not be reached. She said that Ruffin’s staff had heard him repeat the story on other occasions.
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Eric Trump, the candidate’s 32-year-old son, runs a foundation that raises money for St. Jude’s through an annual charity golf tournament. It receives some help from his father, who donates the use of golf course facilities, and has given $150,000 out of the Donald J. Trump Foundation. But it is a separate entity: Tax forms show Donald Trump is not on its staff or a member of its board. In a recent interview, Eric Trump told The Washington Post that he believed his father had also given his own cash to the Eric Trump Foundation. But Eric Trump could not recall a specific time when that had happened.
In February 2015 — a few months before Ruffin’s comments — Eric Trump’s foundation announced that it had acquired naming rights to a surgical and intensive-care center at St. Jude’s. To get those rights, Eric Trump’s foundation made a pledge to raise a large amount money for St. Jude’s over the next 10 years.
The amount that Eric Trump pledged to give? $20 million.
Again, I don’t care if Donald Trump gives to charity or does not. Certainly, it would make me think more of him if he were a generous philanthropist towards worthy causes, but if he’s not, that’s his business and I wouldn’t criticize him for it. What’s maddening is the extent to which he specifically claims that he’s done so, presumably to make people like me think more highly of him, then does not actually do it. To me, that’s some of the scummiest behavior a person can engage in.