It appears that the attacks on presidential candidate Donald Trump’s business record seem to have touched a nerve.
Despite three more primary and caucus victories on Tuesday, Trump eschewed a traditional victory speech, adding in a press conference — and something else: a table piled high with a veritable Trump-ucopia of Trump-branded products.
“I have very successful companies,” the New York billionaire told reporters at the event at Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, in Jupiter, Fla., as raw steaks, bottles of wine and vodka, and magazines stood near the man himself.
In particular, Trump appeared irked about last week’s speech by 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who declared, “Whatever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there’s Trump magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks and Trump Mortgage. A business genius he is not.”
So what’s the backstory of those products Trump pitched as a sign of his success?
Raw meat — of the real and rhetorical kinds — was front and center last night.
“Do we have steaks? We have Trump steaks,” Trump boasted. “If you want to take one, we’ll charge you about, what, 50 bucks a steak?”
Trump did have an eponymous steak line, sold via Sharper Image. The company’s website notes, however:
“Unfortunately, Trump Steaks are no longer available, but their legacy endures.”
A search for “Trump” on QVC’s website finds various Melania Trump jewelry products, a line of Trump mattresses and one entry for Trump Steaks. But they’re not actual steaks; they’re “Certified Angus Beef Steakburgers” and QVC notes, “We’re sorry, this item is not available at this time.”
A reporter present at Trump’s press conference notes that the steaks on the table were not actually a Trump brand, but appear, ironically, to have come from a company named “Bush Brothers.”
“[Romney] said Trump Magazine is out. I said, it is? I thought I read one two days ago. This comes out, and it’s called The Jewel of Palm Beach, and we — it goes to all of my clubs,” said Trump, before throwing a copy out to the audience.
There is indeed a magazine called The Jewel of Palm Beach published by the Palm Beach Media Group that is described as “the exclusive publication of Donald J. Trump’s spectacular Mar-a-Lago Club” and other Trump properties.
Trump does not appear to own the publisher, and the magazine only comes out on an annual basis.
There was a Trump magazine, which went out of circulation in 2009. The New York Daily News reported:
“The last iteration of the luxury lifestyle mag reached a circulation of 100,000 and sold for $5.95 before it flopped. Issues are nowhere to be found online and hardcopies are likely a rare collector’s item.”
“Well, I sold the airline, and I actually made a great deal, complicated and in really terrible times. The economy was horrible and I made a phenomenal deal,” said Trump, referring to the Trump Shuttle.
NBC News recently looked back at the venture, and summarized Trump’s ownership this way:
“Back in 1989, Trump pounced at the chance to buy the troubled Eastern Air Lines shuttle service for $365 million. He put the Trump name on the planes, dressed them up inside — and waited for business to boom. It didn’t. But the business took on too much debt and eventually defaulted. It was sold to USAir.”
Trump launched Trump University in 2005 to help budding real-estate entrepreneurs, but it ran afoul of regulators, who noted that it was not a degree-granting institution. Former students sued, claiming they were tricked into spending tens of thousands of dollars for seminars that didn’t do anywhere near what was advertised.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also suing and claiming that Trump and his associates defrauded students of a collective $40 million. The now-renamed Trump Entrepreneur Initiative is mostly dormant.
Trump is challenging those lawsuits and says he will win and that, when that happens, he will reopen Trump U: “It’s going to do very well,” Trump said, “and it will continue to do very well.”
The table was stacked with bottles of Trump Wine, and Trump declared of the winery, “I own it 100 percent, no mortgage, no debt.”
The winery’s website says something different: “Trump Winery is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC, which is not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.”
Trump, who is a teetotaler, also used to sell Trump Vodka, although that venture has also been discontinued. A review described the vodka’s taste this way:
“Vodka from The Donald. Nosings reveal dry, earthy scents of grain, paraffin, kid leather, jasmine, flowers, moss and soot. Palate entry displays far better than average grain focus and viscosity; at midpalate, the taste profile turns off-dry, intensely breakfast cereal-like and biscuity. Finishes oily/creamy and snack cracker-like.”
There were also pallets of Trump Water on stage. On Trump’s website, the water is touted as “one of the purest natural spring waters bottled in the world.”
“I mean, we sell water, and we have water, and it’s a very successful,” Trump said, “you know, it’s a private little water company, and I supply the water for all my places, and it’s good.”
So does Trump own the natural springs or bottle the water himself? According to reporters at the event who looked the label, probably not.
As Trump himself put it Tuesday night, “So you have the water; you have the steaks; you have the airline that I sold. I mean, what’s wrong with selling? Every once in a while you can sell something. You have the wines and all of that, and Trump University, we’re going to start it up as soon as I win the lawsuit. Does that make sense? I mean, that’s it. OK.”