November 24, 2020

From the Chicago cop to the crying businessman, Trump’s anecdotes often change with each telling

 It’s an amusing story that always gets a laugh and allows Presient Donald Trump to show he’s a good friend to Israel.

But each time Trump tells it, he changes an important detail.

The scene: a Hanukkah celebration in the White House’s crystal-chandeliered East Room on Dec. 11. Trump entertained his audience by recalling a conversation with a Jewish friend he identified as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Trump said he asked Kraft which of his presidential decisions was more significant: Moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem or recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“He said, ‘Neither … What you did by terminating the Iran nuclear deal is bigger than both,’” Trump recalled.

Four hours later, at another Hanukkah celebration in the same room, Trump told virtually the same story with one major exception: This time, he identified the other person in the conversation as real estate developer Charles Kushner. Four days earlier, Trump had told the same tale at an Israeli-American Council summit in Hollywood, Fla. That time, he identified the Jewish friend in the conversation as casino mogul and GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., poses with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft as Ivanka Trump and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner leave after a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House on Dec. 11, 2019.

The “Jewish friend” narrative isn’t the only often-told Trump tale riddled with inconsistencies.

Trump frequently recalls meeting a tough-as-nails cop who could clean up Chicago in a week – or one or two days, in some versions.

In yet another anecdote, Trump recounted meeting a police officer whose wife thinks he’s a financial genius because his 401(k) has soared during the Trump presidency.  In some versions, Trump has identified the central character as a New York policeman. Other times the identity has been less precise – a police officer (no city or state named) or a generic husband or wife.

More striking is the supposed growth rate in the character’s retirement savings. In some versions, Trump has reported that the person’s 401(k) is up by 39 percent. In others, he has claimed it jumped by 42, 44, 46, 48, 49, 50, 55, 60 and 72 percent.

While the overarching theme of Trump’s narratives remains the same, the constantly changing details raise questions: Are the stories based on real individuals or merely composites of various people he has met? Or are they fiction – presidential parables concocted to drive home a broader truth about public policy?

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