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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Forbes Fake 400

Jonathan Greenberg -- a self-styled "investigative journalist, author and new-media innovator" -- wrote a column that unintentionally showed him for a fool.

"Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes," read the headline in the Washington Post.

The year was 1984. He was working on the Forbes 400, a compilation of the 400 richest people in America.

Cut to the chase. Some guy Greenberg never heard of who called himself John Barron got Greenberg on the telephone and convinced him Trump was a billionaire, back in the day when $70 million got Michael Jackson on the list.

Greenberg taped their conversation, argued with him, and Forbes estimated Trump's worth was far less than claimed.

"At the time, I suspected that some of this was untrue. I ran Trump’s assertions to the ground, and for many years I was proud of the fact that Forbes had called him on his distortions and based his net worth on what I thought was solid research," Greenberg wrote.

"But it 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-moneyed peers — as a spate of government reports and books showed only much later."

Trump lied? OK, shame on him.

But what about Greenberg and Forbes. They lied too. They said a man was worth $100 million when he was worth $5 million.

This casts a lot of doubt on the Forbes 400 and the investigative journalism of John Greenberg.

The magazine and the journalist had a very low standard.

"When I recently rediscovered and listened, for first time since that year, to the tapes I made of this and other phone calls, I was amazed that I didn’t see through the ruse: Although Trump altered some cadences and affected a slightly stronger New York accent, it was clearly him," Greenberg wrote 34 years later.

That is how journalism worked at Forbes. I seriously doubt that Trump was alone in fooling Forbes.

The magazine's ambitious project involved finding the personal wealth of hundreds of Americans. Given the penchant for privacy among the rich, and the difficulty of pricing many assets -- how much does a Renoir go for these days? -- the Forbes staff relied on John Barrons to do their legwork.

"I was a determined 25-year-old reporter, and I thought that, by reeling Trump back from some of his more outrageous claims, I’d done a public service and exposed the truth. But his confident deceptions were so big that they had an unexpected effect: Instead of believing that they were outright fabrications, my Forbes colleagues and I saw them simply as vain embellishments on the truth. We were so wrong," Greenberg wrote.

The press gets played because it relies on 25-year-old reporters to do nearly impossible tasks.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me year after year after year, and I must work for Forbes.

Greenberg's column inadvertently belies the myth that Trump's father gave him this great fortune that he built upon.

Moving from $5 million to $5 billion is quite a feat.

Falling for a voice on the phone with "a slightly stronger New York accent" is not.


  1. Don,I would not waste the time printing this stuff.

  2. This is another case of the left projecting their own paranoid schizophrenia onto others. Alternatively Trump is either a ne'er do well layabout who squandered the legacy his daddy left him, which would have done better in an index fund, or he's been lying about how much he's worth all along, playing some kind of con game.

    If he was only worth $5 million then, where was all of daddy's money? And if he was only worth $5 million then, how is he able to fake a billionaire's lifestyle on such meager stakes? If $5 million is all it takes to fake a worth of $10 billion, a hell of a lot of us should be able to fake a billionaire lifestyle easily, fool all the bankers, and skate into the White House.

    To believe stuff like this you have to literally bathe in left wing propaganda from sun up to sun down.

    This reminds me of a plant union rep patient of mine who completely bought into Obama's line that we could balance the budget if we got people who made over $250,000 to pay their fair share of taxes. When I asked him what percentage of people he thought made that or more his reply was, I kid you not: 50%.

    When I told him, "try less than five percent" he just stared at the ceiling.

    Two years later, after he'd retired, he wanted to kill everyone in the federal government.

  3. Oh, and in reference to the top (pun intended) comment, this was a GREAT column in pointing out the twisted psychopathologies behind TDS.

  4. After he had fallen a billion in debt from his Atlantic city problems Trump remarked that the homeless guys around his building were richer than him. He never fooled himself. Who cares if some idiot got taken in? How many people has He lied to in his career as a "journalist"? He works for one of the most corrupt propaganda operations since the Beobachter days yet he has no shame. Drop dead.

  5. "Greenberg wrote 34 years later."

    THIRTY FOUR years?!?
    Wasn't Trump a Dem back then. Sheesh. Could you Forbes reporters please print Obama's college transcripts now?

  6. Shorter Jonathan Greenberg: Still butthurt after all these years.

  7. Trump trolled the media long before the word became vogue.

  8. Sounds as though Greenberg would make an excellent paperweight, especially if that got him out of the investigative journalism racket.

  9. Wasn't this the same era when Hillary turned $1000 into $100,000 gambling on the futures market--with the "help" of a lawyer who represented the largest employer in Arkansas?

    Or was that when she was up to her eyeballs in the Whitewater real estate scam--the one in which her partners went to jail rather than taking the risk of testifying against her?

    1. In fact, wasn't that the same era that Bill Clinton stands accused of raping Democrat campaign volunteer Juanita Brodderick?

      So Trump hyped up his own PR and some dumbass punk journalist fell for it. Big deal. He looks like a boy scout compared to the Clintons.

    2. Actually, Her Royal Clintoness claimed she turned that $1,000 into $100,000 by reading the Wall Street Journal and that she
      received no improper financial assistance on the trades from the lawyer, James B. Blair, a close friend who at the time was the top lawyer for Tyson Foods of Springdale, Ark., the nation's biggest poultry company. Mr. Blair has said that he had suggested that she get into the commodities market, and that he used his knowledge of trading to guide her along the way.

  10. Forbes should stop Bellyaching. Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos infamy had a value on paper of $4.5 billion. She was celebrated by Forbes in their news rag many times. Now her net worth is zero according to Forbes.

  11. FORBES lied to us? Oh, nooooooooooooooooooooo.
    I am so bummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmed.

  12. Greenberg is lying. Among other things, Trump Tower had already been completed by 1984.

    As you can see here, he's a political partisan:

    PrivCo, a service which provides estimates of the data on privately held companies, estimates that the Trump Organization employs 22,000 people and has $9.5 bn in annual revenue.