You may not believe this, but Donald Trump may have started his run as president with highly dubious claim.
After bounding on stage at his headquarters, Trump Tower, the bombastic billionaire looked up at the crowd that surrounded him in awe.
“Whoa,” Trump said. “That is some group of people. Thousands. There’s been no crowd like this.”
However, we were there, and it seemed like there were no more than a few hundred supporters lined up to watch Trump speak.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Business Insider the campaign did not have an “official tally.” However, she said it would be “wildly inaccurate” to say less than 1,000 people were in attendance. She said the campaign was “expecting over 1,000.” In addition to the people in the audience area, Hicks claimed there were people watching in bars and restaurants within Trump Tower as well as passers by who viewed the event on televisions set up outside.
“There were a lot of people probably that you couldn’t see,” Hicks said.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Trump without bold proclamations and bluster. The physical manifestation of the Trump ethos is his eponymous headquarters on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. Trump Tower, which is covered in wall-to-wall pink marble and mirrors. This was the setting for Trump’s event Tuesday where he declared his intention to add the White House to his portfolio of properties.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially running for president of the United States,” Trump said, pausing for dramatic effect.
As a result of Trump’s past presidential flirtations, many members of the assembled press corps muttered doubts about whether he would actually enter the race as they awaited his speech. Before Trump took the stage, the crowd of reporters and supporters was treated to a blasting soundtrack that included opera, Broadway showtunes, and one somewhat odd choice for a presidential campaign: Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”
Though the songs title was somewhat inauspicious for a campaign launch, it fit the tone of the event — epic and loud. The balconies and and escalators surrounding the podium where Trump made his address were ringed with his fans. Many of them waved signs and wore shirts bearing the slogan “TRUMP – MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
I talked with a trio of women who said they were longtime Trump supporters ahead of the big announcement.
Apart from wondering whether Trump would actually launch a campaign, the main question among the media ahead of the event seemed to be whether the people in the crowd were paid. The three supporters said they were invited to the announcement via email and were not paid. They clearly weren’t turned off by Trump’s very public decision not to run last time around.
“He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t prepared,” one of the women said. “I think he’s ready now.”
“I don’t think America wasn’t prepared to vote him in then,” another added. “I think America needed to go to Barack Obama just to make sure they got it wrong.”
Trump was introduced by his daughter, Ivanka, who praised his business acumen and bold personal style. She lauded him as a man whose “legend has been built” and “needs no introduction.”
“My father is the opposite of politically correct,” Ivanka said. “He says what he means and he means what he says.”
After his daughter spoke, Trump descended one of the gilded escalators and headed to the podium soundtracked by the rollicking guitar riffs of Neil Young’s “Rocking In The Free World.” Following his questionable boast about the size of the crowd, Trump took a shot at his presidential rivals. He claimed some of them had not even been able to provide functional air conditioning at their events and said this showed they are not ready to confront America’s enemies.
Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again” is premised on the idea other politicians, who he said are beholden to lobbyists and special interests, are not capable of taking on our foreign competitors.
Here’s some of the Trump highlights:
- “I’m using my own money. I’m not using lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”
- Trump listed several foreign threats that he said are “beating America” in his speech. These included China, Japan, Mexico, which he said is sending immigrants across the border that are “not the right people,” and “Islamic terrorism.”
- “I’m in competition with [ISIS]. They just built a hotel in Syria.”
- “I am a nice person. People that know me like me,” Trump said. “Does my family like me? I think so.”
- “I love the Saudis, many are in this building.”
- “I would call up the head of Ford, who I know, if I was president.”
- “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
In addition to detailing his qualifications, Trump took a few shots at those who questioned the sincerity of his presidential aspirations.
“It’s so nice to say, ‘I’m running’ as opposed to ‘If I run,'” Trump said. “I’m running.”
For Trump, launching a presidential bid was apparently also an opportunity to show off his personal fortune. Trump noted that campaign finance laws require presidential candidates to “announce and certify” their net worth to “all sorts of” officials. As he mulled whether or not to run, Trump said it occurred to him that this process would be a chance to prove doubters who believe he’s “not as successful as everybody thinks” are wrong.
“I said to myself, ‘Nobody’s ever going to know unless I run,'” Trump recounted. “Because I’m really proud of my success. I really am.”
Trump also said his assets are worth $US9.24 billion and he has “liabilities of about 500.”
“That’s long term debt, very low interest,” he boasted, adding a bank recently offered to loan him another $US4 billion because they thought he didn’t have enough debt.
Totaling up his assets and liabilities, Trump declared his net worth is about $US8.7 billion. However, he predicted it will soon be “well over $US10 billion.”
Whether it’s $US10 billion or more like $US8 billion, Trump’s claims about his fortune far exceed what was previously believed about his wealth. As of last month, Forbes estimated Trump’s net worth at $US4.1 billion.
Trump closed his speech with a loud vow to, “Make America great again!”
His campaign is centered on this slogan and promise to defeat the country’s enemies and restore its standing on the world stage. However, with his repeated jabs at those who have doubted his wealth and ambition, it seems as though Trump’s 2016 bid is also a chance for him to attack his enemies and restore his personal reputation.
According to materials given out by his team, Trump will hit the campaign trail immediately following his speech. He is scheduled to be in Iowa Tuesday evening, New Hampshire on Wednesday, and South Carolina on Friday.
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