Political News

Fact check: Trump again tells story about being booed at 2015 event he didn't attend

Posted July 24, 2020 6:51 p.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump boasted on Wednesday about his cognitive abilities, including the memory he has previously called "one of the great memories of all time."

But there are only two possibilities about a story Trump told in an interview he taped on Thursday: either he misremembered something or he made something up.

Trump was musing to Dave Portnoy, the controversial founder of the website Barstool Sports, about how his life was better before he announced his presidential candidacy. As he did in March, Trump then spoke of an incident he claimed took place at a New York City charity gala after he became a politician in 2015.

"One thing that happened: I was going into a thing called the Robin Hood Foundation. I'll never forget it," Trump said in the interview, which Portnoy released on Friday.

"It was just about the night I announced or whatever. My wife looked at me, she said, 'You know, I hear people booing.' And she was with me for a long time, we've been together a long time, she said, 'Some people are booing.' I said, 'Yeah, but some people are also clapping. Wildly.' I said, 'No.' She said, 'You know what, I've been with you a long time. I've never heard anyone boo you.' This was right after I started being the politician. And it meant something -- because I said, you know, it's the first time in my life I was ever booed."

Facts First: This story could not possibly be true: Trump has not attended the Robin Hood Foundation gala since 2011. Also, the 2015 gala was held in May, a month before Trump announced his candidacy -- so, even if he had gone, he could not possibly have been booed there for his immigration positions as a new candidate, as he claimed in March. Also, Trump had been booed in public on multiple occasions before 2015.

MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle, who is part of the anti-poverty foundation's Leadership Council of prominent donors, has publicly said that Trump did not attend the gala in 2015, a star-studded affair that raised $101 million. Ruhle tweeted in March that Trump's story about being booed was "entirely fabricated."

Another person affiliated with the foundation, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Trump had not attended the gala since 2011.

Just to be sure, we spoke in March to seven attendees of the 2015 dinner, including singer Jenna Esposito, former Obama administration deputy social secretary Ebs Burnough, and Dr. Mahek Shah, who said they had no recollection of Trump being there.

Trump tells a lot of deliberate lies, but he might perhaps just have been confused on this one -- since he was booed elsewhere in New York after launching his candidacy in 2015. He was also booed during a poorly received quasi-comedic speech at the Alfred E. Smith charity dinner in New York City in October 2016, though that was long after he announced his candidacy.

Still, Trump's account has evolved over time. He told a highly similar booing story to the New York Times after his election in November 2016, except he did not name the Robin Hood Foundation gala as the venue, put the incident "about two years ago" rather than in 2015, and said it happened "just after I started thinking about politics" rather than after he announced his candidacy.

Trump has tried to make mental sharpness a major issue in the campaign, repeatedly suggesting that Democratic opponent Joe Biden has lost his faculties. Trump taped the interview with Portnoy just a day after a Fox News interview in which he crowed at length about his supposed ability, on a cognitive test he says he took, to remember five words in order: "Person, woman, man, camera, TV."

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