Donald Trump’s lies go national in first New York Times feature

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Roy Cohn gets Donald Trump his first profile piece in The New York Times. Reporter Judy Klemesrud spends a day riding around the city with Trump and interviews his father and fellow real estate professionals, all with mostly praise for the 30-year-old.

The New York Times feature is the first known publication of Trump’s lie that he graduated first in his class from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1968, The Daily Pennsylvanian published a list of the 56 students who were on the Wharton Dean’s List that year — Trump’s name is not among them… There was no indication on the 1968 Commencement Program that Trump graduated with any honors. A copy of the program acquired from the Penn Archives lists 20 Wharton award and prize recipients, 15 cum laude recipients, four magna cum laude recipients and two summa cum laude recipients for the Class of 1968. Trump’s name appears nowhere on those lists.

The Daily Pennsylvanian

When asked about plans to be named Man Of The Year by the National Jewish Hospital in Denver, Trump lies again: “I’m not even Jewish, I’m Swedish.”

Donald Trump isn’t Jewish or Swedish, despite claiming for at least a decade that his grandfather immigrated to the US from Sweden. His paternal grandfather is German. On his mother’s side, Scottish.

Trump isn’t the only person who lies to the New York Times about ancestry, though. One of the people who provides a quote in support of Trump is real estate tycoon Samuel J. LeFrak. He pronounces his name “Leh-Frack” and claims his parents immigrated to the US from France. In reality, his parents’ last name is “Lefrak,” and they are from Russia.

Klemesrud’s feature has been credited as the start of a long con to convince the world that Donald Trump is something that he isn’t.

In Klemesrud, Trump found the perfect person to start the campaign. A society reporter who nevertheless represented America’s paper of record, Klemesrud came from small town Iowa, and her roots showed in her gee-whiz approach to the Trump article. Her main source of insights into the man she profiled was Trump’s proud and loving papa, who had every reason in the world to exaggerate and inflate. She quoted Fred Trump saying, “Donald is the smartest person I know,” and she let him say “everything he touches turns to gold.” This he declared even though his son had yet to develop a single Manhattan property…

As a foundational document, the first newspaper account of Donald Trump’s life is a classic example of the showmanship and hype that would keep him in the public eye for decades to come. Most of the grand projects trumpeted in the article never came to pass. The $200 million fortune Trump claimed was actually built by his father. The slinky fashion models were never named. Klemesrud let Trump say he was of Swedish descent, when his family actually came from Germany and Scotland. And Trump’s connections to powerful politicians, observed as he dined at the swanky restaurant 21, were in fact the product of his father’s efforts.

The Daily Beast

External Sources

The New York Times (Archived)

The Daily Pennsylvanian (Archived)

Axious – Trump Is Not Swedish (Archived)

Samuel J. LeFrak, Archived

Hiding In Plain Sight by Sarah Kendzior, page 53

The Daily Beast (Archived)

Photo: The New York Times

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