NYT 'bombshell' on president's business losses was scooped by Trump himself

The New York Times revealed Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE lost more than $1.1 billion as a businessman from 1985 to 1994. Cable news and the punditry world melted down over this "bombshell," as it does over anything Trump, with hyperbole, snark and feigned shock emanating from the airwaves for the next 24 hours — a sound and fury signifying nothing. 

One small problem with the Times piece: A member of NBC's entertainment division broke that story in 2004. His name was Donald Trump, star of "The Apprentice." 

ADVERTISEMENT
Look back to 2004, Season 1, Episode 1, Scene 1: Trump is in the back of a luxury car driving through the streets of Manhattan, boasting about who he was, what he owned and what made him who he is before sharing that the success "wasn’t always so easy." 

"About 13 years ago, I was seriously in trouble. I was billions of dollars in debt," Trump said at the time. "But I fought back and I won. Big league. I used my brain. I used my negotiating skills. And I worked it all out. Now my company’s bigger than it ever was, stronger than it ever was and I’m having more fun than I ever had. I’ve mastered the art of the deal and I’ve turned the name Trump into the highest quality brand.”    

The episode was a springboard for Trump from A-list New York tabloid star to A-list national TV star. The finale of the first season of "The Apprentice" was watched by 40 million people. For context, HBO's highest rated "Game of Thrones" drew 17.8 million, albeit on a pay channel. It was this reality show and that success that helped make Trump a household name synonymous to many as a winner, which helped springboard him to the presidency after running against a flawed, unauthentic Democratic candidate.   

Trump doesn't only share that he was billions in debt on TV, but also goes into detail about it in his 2007 book, "The Art of the Comeback." Regardless, the Times basically presents the losses over those nine years as some kind of new revelation resulting in the publication somehow obtaining his Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts.  

Trump's troubles in the mid-'80s to mid-'90s weren't exactly a closely held family secret only revealed on a reality show years later, either. His financial struggles were widely reported at the time, particularly in the splashy pages of New York City tabloids, as noted by freelance journalist Michael Tracey on Wednesday: "I'm all for seeing Trump's tax records, but I'm confused as to why it's being portrayed as new or surprising that he endured major financial turmoil in the late 80s / early 90s. Everyone has known this forever. The tabloids covered it breathlessly at the time."  

These basic facts weren't mentioned in the Times piece, which would lead most readers to believe the paper of record had uncovered something meant never to be seen by others, given Trump's refusal to share his tax returns as past presidential candidates have done for decades. On cue, many in the media portrayed the "revealing" news around Trump's losses from 20 to 30 years ago as "new": 

"Stunning new revelations underscore urgency of getting Trump’s tax returns" — Washington Post 

"Trump’s Tax Returns Reveal He Lost Over $1 Billion" — Yahoo News 

Tax returns reveal Trump lost over $1 billion in business deals, making him one of the biggest financial losers in the U.S.: report” — The New York Daily News (yes, the same Daily News that reported this in June 1990

And then there's the New York Times in 1995, one year after Trump began to climb out of his financial abyss, which ran this story: "Crowning the Comeback King."

"Though there are still four years to go in the 90's, business and government leaders in New York honored Donald J. Trump yesterday for pulling off what they called 'the comeback of the decade,'" an October 1995 piece read. It added: "Mr. Trump, the developer who came to epitomize opulent wealth during the 80's before tumbling into deep financial trouble, has managed to erase much of his debt and is moving ahead with major projects at a time other developers are idling."  

ABC host Jimmy KimmelJames (Jimmy) Christian KimmelHillary and Chelsea Clinton propel Colbert's 'Late Show' to record high Monday rating Biden to attend fundraiser at home of Paramount CEO Biden: Last 48 hours have been '18 out of 10' on outlandish scale MORE, absolutely no fan of Trump in keeping with the late-night standard, summed up matters best on Thursday night during his opening monologue. 

"Democrats don't realize, it's basically the WWE. It's wrestling," Kimmel said of Democrats and the media obsession with Trump's tax returns. "They're busy trying to prove that the Undertaker isn't an actual undertaker. Like, 'Hey, this guy has no license to practice funeral directing in any state.' And the Republicans are like, 'Uhuh, yeah, we know. Do you mind stepping aside so we can watch him hit someone with a folding chair? Thank you.' "  

ADVERTISEMENT

Another day, another "bombshell." 

The Times recycled news seemingly in an effort to keep the anti-Trump ecosystem refreshed. Many may not have known about Trump's financial troubles two to three decades ago, so the recycled new becomes "new" news — and it likely sold well. 

But for those paying attention, this — like many stories about Trump's past — is old news. And already baked into the stock that is the former real estate mogul-turned-reality-star-turned-president's portfolio. 

It changes absolutely nothing.

Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill and co-host of "WOR Tonight with Joe Concha and Lis Wiehl" weeknights on 710-WOR in New York. Follow Concha on Twitter @JoeConchaTV.