Media members better get their facts straight when reporting about Donald Trump or they just might end up biting off more than they can chew.
On Friday, while CNN's Eliot Spitzer was doing a report contradicting Trump's claims about his net worth, the real estate mogul called into the studio to set the record straight (video follows with transcript and commentary):
ELIOT SPITZER, HOST: OK. Now we have something surprising right now. We have a phone call coming in right now from Donald Trump.
Donald, can you hear us?
DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: Yes, I can.
SPITZER: Well, thank you for calling in. Thank you for joining us. I gather -- I know from a call earlier in the day you're not happy with the critique that we've made of the deposition. As I said to you when we spoke, I'll give you fair chance to respond. Fire away. Take your best shot.
TRUMP: Well, I don't think that -- I didn't see the piece, but I heard one or two people called me up -- not too many, but one or two people called me up and they said it was a very unfair piece.
First of all, I'm a private company, you know nothing about what I own and what I don't own, Eliot. And in all due respect, I think you'd be the first to admit that. You don't know where I come from or what I -- what I own, although I did -- I was a fan of yours, and I was a little bit surprised to see that you would do a negative piece.
But being a private company you really have no idea what I own and it's very substantial. Now should I decide to run -- and by the way, among my best years have been the last two or three years, should I decide to run, you'll see all of that because as you know I have very, very detailed Federal Disclosure forms that I have to fill out, and I think people would be surprised to see what the numbers are. They are very, very substantial.
SPITZER: Look, Donald, just so it is clear. I have made it very clear on this show. In fact, I just added a few moments ago, you may not have been able to hear it. I'm a fan of yours. I love the bravado. I think all of that is wonderful. The issue here, and I also agree as a private entity and a private company you do not have the obligation to make the disclosures that a public company does.
And therefore there's a certain lack of knowledge that all of us bring to this conversation which is why the only thing we've used here is the deposition.
Tell me if I'm right about this. You made certain presentations to banks in a certain point of time, Deutsche Bank and North Fork. You said you had a net worth of $3.5 billion. They came back with very significantly lower numbers. TRUMP: No. But as you probably know they were only looking at certain assets. This was for a building that I was building, and they didn't need to have $3.5 billion. They just needed to have a certain net worth.
SPITZER: That's right.
TRUMP: Anything -- and not even a net worth. Just assets of a certain amount in order to --
SPITZER: But Donald, you would agree --
TRUMP: -- for a building. Excuse me, Eliot, let me talk.
SPITZER: Absolutely. So what they did is this was just a percentage. They just took a basic percentage. It had to be over 750 in order to do the loan. This wasn't a net worth of 750. This was a statement that it had to be over 750 in order to do a loan and that's very well documented by Deutsche Bank.
SPITZER: But you would acknowledge that looking at the same materials that you presented to them they came in with a net worth that was significantly lower than what you had initially stated.
TRUMP: That's not right, Eliot.
SPITZER: No, wait, wait.
SPITZER: Donald, it was sufficient for the loan --
TRUMP: Well, in excess of $750 million.
TRUMP: In other words, it had to get up to $750 million in order to make a loan. This is many years ago, just so you understand.
TRUMP: So I'm going back many years.
TRUMP: Many, many years.
SPITZER: Can we --
TRUMP: But we had to have a net worth over a certain amount in order to do a loan.
TRUMP: Now, once that amount was hit it didn't make any difference because you didn't need any more than that, so all they wanted to do was to make sure it was more than the $700 or $750 million. That wasn't a net worth. That was just to be over a certain limit.
SPITZER: Right. But your initial signed statement to them was $3.5, they came in at $1.2 instead of --
TRUMP: Let me just -- no, that's not right. Let me just tell you something.
SPITZER: Right. I'm listening.
TRUMP: My net worth, you may very well see and very accurately because of federal forms --
TRUMP: You're going to see in very great deal. I have built a great company.
SPITZER: No doubt about that.
TRUMP: I have built a company that is -- and I think you sort of know that because you're involved in real estate in New York. I have built a great company. I have built a company that has very little debt, has a lot of cash and I have among the best locations anywhere in the United States. I have great property.
SPITZER: Donald --
TRUMP: If I decide to run, and I may surprise you by my decision.
TRUMP: You will see filed, not 90 days later when that I'm expected to do it, but the day that I decide to run, you will see a large number of papers that add up to a certain number and on that paper and on that cover paper will be the amount of cash I have, what banks the cash is in and also what net worth there is, approximately.
SPITZER: Donald, just so it's clear --
TRUMP: And it will be very simple. And you're wasting a lot of time on your show and to be honest, you know, you'll find out, very likely, you'll find out -- hopefully you will find out because this country is in such bad shape that somebody has to do something as quickly as possible.
SPITZER: We'll get to that --
TRUMP: So hopefully you'll find out in a very short number of weeks.
SPITZER: We'll get to that in just a moment.
TRUMP: What the number is.
SPITZER: We'll get to that in just a moment. Here's the question I have for you. What is your net worth? Why don't you tell us right now?
TRUMP: I will save it but I will tell you this.
SPITZER: You're going to say your net worth or you're going to save your statement?
TRUMP: My net worth -- excuse me, Eliot. Excuse me. My net worth according to "Forbes" is $2.7 billion?
TRUMP: I will tell you this, it is substantially in excess of that. When I say substantially, much, much more. They don't have access to my books, they don't have access to my records.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN: It's Jeff Toobin.
SPITZER: Jeff has a question for you.
TOOBIN: Let me ask you a question about the Hawaii project, in Waikiki that we raised earlier in the program today. He said that -- you said you own it. In interviews and in letters you said you own it. In fact, in the deposition you said well, I have a license. It's a licensing agreement but it's really a good licensing agreement.
Isn't there a difference between owning something --
TRUMP: You're talking about Hawaii? I really don't know if it's an ownership position or license. I have so many jobs that I wouldn't know that. I can tell you this, it's a very successful job, it's a beautiful job.
TOOBIN: I don't doubt that for a second that you're very successful but --
TRUMP: And it's -- and it's --
TRUMP: Excuse me, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: I'm sorry.
TRUMP: It's up, it's open, it's doing very well and people are very happy. As to whether or not it's a licensing deal or an ownership deal, I have many, many deals all over the world. I'd have to really check that, I don't know.
SPITZER: Donald, we've got to take a quick break. You know this. You have a TV show somewhere, don't you?
TRUMP: I do. I certainly do.
Something media members must find very scary - and possibly one of the reasons they've been so on the attack concerning Trump - is that he's not afraid of them.
Part of the press's power especially on television is that politicians generally fear those that make a living offering political opinion to the public.
What we've seen in the past few weeks is this is not one of Trump's concerns. Quite the contrary, he seems to love getting in the ring with his adversaries as the cameras are rolling.
If The Donald is really going to run for president, and this isn't just him having a lot of fun getting the nation's attention in a greater fashion than normal, his courageous, devil may care attitude around the media may be a quality that goes a long way with voters.
What the talking heads don't realize is for better or worse, most Americans don't vote based on the issues. If they did, Obama never would have gotten anywhere near as far as he did in 2008.
One of the many things to be learned from that campaign was how many people in this country vote for personalities not issues or positions. Say what you will about the former junior senator from Illinois, he did ooze what a goodly percentage of the public was looking for at that moment in time.
The same could end up being true of Trump if he decides to run. There's potentially a sizable number of people that would support him just because of the confidence he has to call an on air television host and challenge him or her about what he or she is reporting at that instant.
His positions on a number of issues might be offensive to some, but that could end up being largely irrelevant to people who couldn't care less about Obama's birth certificate or possible tariffs on Chinese goods.
This real estate mogul right now is playing the press better than any candidate we've seen in a long time, and that could be winning him more fans than some campaign promise they expect will be reneged upon shortly after their vote is cast.
Another wild card is ratings, for if Trump's even come close to what media outlets were getting in 2008 every time Obama or his wife was in a studio or on a magazine cover, this could get really interesting in the coming months because they're going to want him on as much as possible.
That could mean this is just the start of a lot of Donald exposure which will certainly make him very happy, but will end up really displeasing the current White House resident.
Wouldn't that be a shame?