The New York Times is out with another deep dive into President Trump's finances, this one focused on the reality show The Apprentice. It's not flattering. When the show debuted in 2004, Trump boasted to viewers that he had overcome financial trouble thanks to his business savvy, and "now my company is bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was." But the deeply reported story by Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig, declares, "It was all a hoax." At the time, Trump and his business were bleeding money—he reported $89.9 million in net losses on his tax return the previous year. The reality show, however, proved to be what the story calls a "lifeline." A ratings smash with Trump's "You're fired!" signature line, it would earn him nearly $200 million in direct compensation, "while an additional $230 million flowed from the fame associated with it."
The latter is thanks to deals large and small, from mattress endorsements to get-rich-quick seminars branded with the Trump name. What's more, the show provided Trump with "a myth that would propel him to the White House." The story says Trump used his reality TV windfall to buy golf courses, nearly a dozen in the decade starting in 2006, "forming a new core of what he describes as his empire." The problem? The courses began bleeding money, too, and Trump started pulling money out of his other ventures to shore them up. For example, in 2012, he borrowed $100 million against his equity in Trump Tower, money that must be paid back soon, along with other loans from Deutsche Bank and other lenders. A White House spokesman calls the story "yet another politically motivated hit piece full of inaccurate smears." (Read the full story.)