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Trump’s broken promise to donate his Apprentice salary to charity

Trump’s broken promise to donate his Apprentice salary to charity
Donald Trump on Dateline NBC in 2013. (Photo by Heidi Gutman/NBC)

In January of 2004, Donald Trump said he’d donate his $2.5 million salary for season one of The Apprentice to charity. Specifically, he told Howard Stern the money would go to “Lots of charities: AIDS research, Police Athletic League, lots of different charities.”

In April that year, the same month that season one concluded, Trump was back on Stern’s radio show, and when Stern asked, “You’re not giving your whole salary to charity, are you?”, Trump replied, “No.”

BuzzFeed reported that during the year of The Apprentice’s debut, 2004, he gave a total of $700,000 to his foundation. Whether or not that all came from his $2.5 million Apprentice salary isn’t clear, because he also promised to donate his $200,000 salary for a University of Buffalo speech to charity.

Last year, Donald Trump said he made $213,606,575 from The Apprentice, which averages to $15.2 million per season he was involved with.

Trump promises, but gives less than pledged

Trump has given to charity, though what he’s promised hasn’t always materialized—though his Apprentice salary pledge seems to be unique in that he promised the donation and then admitted later he would not make good on it.

BuzzFeed’s report on Trump’s charitable giving found that “Trump makes lofty claims that he will give the proceeds of a project to charity, only to give far less to his personal foundation.” Some examples:

  • In January, Trump’s event, held at the same time as a debate, promised to donate $6 million for veterans, including $1 million he personally donated. Though his campaign manager said he’d donated the money, that $1 million check wasn’t written until May, the same day that The Washington Post started asking questions about where it was.
  • The Washington Post reported  that “Between 1987 and 1991, the Post found that the Trump Foundation only ever gave $137,000 of the $1.9 million that was pledged to causes such as AIDS research, veterans, and homeless organizations—about 7 percent of what was promised.”
  • The Post also found that “Trump donated about $2.8 million through a foundation set up to give his money away” which was “less than a third of the pledged amount,” and “Trump has given nothing to his foundation since 2008.”
  • BuzzFeed reported that “Trump personally contributed $5,093,512 to his foundation between 1988 and 2014. (During that same time period, an additional $7,072,645 was donated by outside individuals and organizations.) In seven of those years, Trump personally contributed nothing.”

Trump’s spokesperson, Hope Hicks, told BuzzFeed that Trump does not give via his foundation, whose records are public, but instead “makes contributions personally and there’s no way for you to know or understand what those gifts are or when they are made.”

Those donations would be recorded in his tax returns, which Trump has not released.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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