ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York's attorney general sued Donald Trump for $40 million Saturday, saying the real estate mogul helped run a phony "Trump University" that promised to make students rich but instead steered them into expensive and mostly useless seminars, and even failed to deliver promised apprenticeships.
Of course, The Donald has fired back:
The Ethics Of The Bloviating Birther
The bombast of Donald Trump was known long before The Apprentice and, as Lawrence O'Donnell hints, may have been the only reason why studio executives agreed to the program in the first place (see below). But Trump was born to sit in the limelight, even if it consisted only of cheap neon: his name became ubiquitous with success simply because it appeared across his holdings. Plastering one's name on objects as a measure of success is not new, but Trump did it to iconic places such as the Plaza Hotel in New York. Plus Trump Towers, Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Entertainment Resorts, etc., etc., etc. Donald Trump went from promoting real estate ventures to promoting Donald Trump.
Trump's political antics after The Apprentice clearly showed that he never wanted to slip back into the role of real estate mogul: he became a publicity hound in the style of Sarah Palin, coming up with statements and proposals to arouse controversy and speculation about his political intent. He even evolved into a proud birther, facetiously claiming to have exclusive knowledge about Obama's birth through private investigators he had employed. (See interview with Wolf Blitzer below).
Critics of Trump's bombast eventually disregard him as irrelevant, but with the situation of the State of New York's lawsuit, the question is posed: when is such bombast unethical? Trump certainly cannot claim that his persona was used without his promotion. Had the use of his name been unauthorized, that would have been one thing, but the use of the celebrity himself - his imprimatur and presence in promotion, his promises of success is quite another. If all the "students" of the "university" got was three days filled with zilch - no real insightful training on real estate - for $1500 (up to $35,000), then it was clear fraud. If apprenticeships were promised to the higher payees and none were delivered, then there was fraud.
And if Trump presented himself as a truly successful businessman, a true entrepreneurial billionaire, then it was fraud.
$40 million is still $40 million
In the reasoning of Lawrence O'Donnell, Trump would not acquiesced to a reality show if he didn't need the money: why would a true billionaire want to host a reality show? The cracks in the flimsy Trump veneer came some five years ago, when Trump Entertainment Resorts (mostly the Atlantic City casinos) were close to bankruptcy. He had to sell his fabled Palm Beach estate last June (128 rooms - the lucky buyer, Russian fertilizer mogul Dmitri Rybolovlev, plans to demolish it because of "mold").
A true billionaire would not likely sniff about a $40 million lawsuit, but perhaps Trump's sense of entitlement, sense of self and sense of avariciousness is overwhelming:
As New York Magazine writer Lisa Miller opined about research regarding the rich:
"The rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, a**holes."