The GOP candidate has screwed over plenty of Americans, but at least half a dozen folks got a taste of revenge.
By now, we’ve all heard stories of Donald Trump’s victims: the women, of course — always the women — but also the contractors who never got paid, the workers left jobless by his failures, the foes he’s dragged into court, even the tortoises disappeared by his golf course.
Though his bluster is strong and the trail of his destruction immense, every once in a while, The Donald has been bested. From the laborers who took him on for unpaid wages to the sign lady who played a delicious trick on him, here’s a sampling of citizens who have dared to tangle with Trump — and won. We contacted the Trump campaign to give them an opportunity to comment on these cases; they did not respond.
Don’t forget as well to check out Fusion’s hourlong Naked Truth documentary, “Trumpland,” on the Americans who support Trump’s presidential bid, come hell or high water. It airs on TV on Fusion, as well as on a special Facebook livestream before the final presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. EDT, and will be available online on Monday, Oct. 24.
1. The Apprentice discriminates against the disabled
James Schottel Jr. had gone to Baker University in Kansas on a partial football scholarship. There, during a hazing incident at a fraternity – which involved sliding on a wet floor after a food fight — he slammed into a wall, suffering a neck injury that left him paralyzed.
Though he was a quadriplegic permanently confined to a wheelchair, Schottel went back to school, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in math and then picked up a law degree. He became an agent representing football players in contract negotiations with the NFL through his company, Pyramid Sports Management in St. Louis. In other words: he had the inspiring story and personal determination that might have made him a great candidate for The Apprentice.
Schottel hoped to apply for the show, but was dismayed to read the application, which stated that contestants must be in “excellent physical and mental health.” In 2005, he sued Trump Productions. In a federal lawsuit claiming that the show’s practices were discriminatory, Schottel asked for the show to be open to people of all abilities.
Following a settlement, the show added language to its application that read, “All applicants who believe they meet our criteria, including persons with disabilities, are welcome and encouraged to apply to be a participant.”
Reached by Fusion, Schottel said he could not comment on the confidential settlement, but in the past, he said he was pleased to see the show made “a commitment to consider people with disabilities. That was my goal from the beginning.”
2. A financial analyst calls ‘shenanigans’ on Trump
In 1990, as Donald Trump was opening his third and most ballyhooed casino in Atlantic City – the Trump Taj Mahal — Marvin Roffman dared to point out that business would suffer when it got cold in the winter. What followed? Trump’s wrath.
Roffman, a securities analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott, told the Wall Street Journal that Trump’s business would boom when it opened, “but once the cold winds blow from October to February, it won’t make it. The market just isn’t there.” He also said that Atlantic City was “an ugly and dreary kind of place.”
Donald Trump complained to Roffman’s bosses at the firm where he’d worked for 16 years, and insisted he write a letter of apology. Rothman initially consented and signed a version saying that the Taj would be “the grandest and most successful” casino in the city. But Trump wanted even more fawning language added. Roffman refused, and rescinded his earlier letter. He was fired. Trump gloated, calling Roffman a “liar” and more.
Roffman struggled to find a job after Trump’s comments blackballed him from his industry. So he hit back, suing Trump for libel and slander. As his lawsuit proceeded, the Taj Mahal lost $120 million and sunk to $3 billion in debt.
In April 1991, Roffman’s case settled. Though the amount was not disclosed, Roffman was quoted saying he was “extremely happy with the settlement” A month later, the Taj Majal entered bankruptcy. (Roffman also ultimately won $750,000 from his employer for wrongful termination.)
Roffman went on to open his own investment firm, and became quite rich. He also published a book called, “Take Charge of Your Financial Future: Straight Talk on Managing Your Money from the Financial Analyst who Defied Donald Trump.” The failing Taj Mahal closed this month.
3. The reporter who humiliated Trump over his net worth
In October 2005, Tim O’Brien published Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald – a biography that he produced with Trump’s cooperation. Trump had consented to interviews and let O’Brien shadow him on his airplane, at home and at work.
O’Brien, a New York Times business reporter, included in his book a fair share of smart-alecky elements – like pointing out that Donald was hired on The Apprentice despite “not remotely close to being the largest real estate developer in New York” and that his office décor “smacked of a JFK airport lounge, circa 1970.”
But those were not the lines that would enrage his billionaire subject.
The reporter had tried to pin down Trump’s net worth. Though Trump had suggested that his assets were worth $1.7 to $9.5 billion, O’Brien’s sources pegged them at $150 million to $250 million. For printing this, Trump sued O’Brien and book publisher Warner Books for $5 billion in damages.
Trump dragged the case out for three years, failing to produce documents like tax returns and bank statements. The case was thrown out in 2009. Trump appealed but lost. O’Brien is now executive editor of Bloomberg View and Bloomberg Gadfly. But during the litigation stage, Trump was forced in a far-ranging deposition to acknowledge many lies he’s told, including about his net worth and how he often bases it on market “attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.” Those on-the-record comments continue to dog him.
4. Trump tries to stiff Jewish workers — unsuccessfully
In April 2014, scores of workers were brought in to work during a Passover holiday tour at the Trump International Golf Course in Doral, Florida, near Miami.
“A large group of orthodox Jews had come from around the world, from New York, for Passover week,” explains Miami attorney Spencer Aronfeld. “Orthodox Jews will only eat particular foods, kosher foods, for Passover. The hotel really couldn’t handle it, and outsourced it.”
After the event wrapped, however, servers said they did not receive their full pay; and some said they were never paid at all. Aronfeld says these were struggling individuals – some didn’t have cars and rode the bus to the job. “You had people who depended on this money to literally survive.”
Forty-nine workers retained Aronfeld to represent them in a lawsuit which claimed that Trump’s resort and the tour company that had organized the trip functioned as “joint employers” and were thus liable for unpaid wages and overtime. Trump’s attorneys disagreed and countersued, alleging breach of contract, fraud, and trespass.
“They did take that position that they were never going to pay,” Aronfeld says. But eventually, they capitulated and settled, with each worker receiving $800 to $3,000. Aronfeld says the check even cleared.
There was a downside, though, Aronfeld muses. “I was looking forward to taking his deposition.”
5. A sign-designer extracts a yuge deal from Trump
Tama Starr is the president of Artkraft Strauss – a firm that designs signage. According to an article she wrote for the New York Post, by the early 1990s, she had done at least three jobs for Donald Trump for which she hadn’t been paid. Trump kept waving away her complaints, suggesting his staff would take care of the bill.
One day in 1991, a third-party ad agency rented out one of Starr’s 20-foot tall company billboards near LaGuardia Airport in New York. On it, they placed an ad for Trump Shuttle — the billionaire’s short-lived airline.
When the contract was up, Starr had an idea. She laid some bait.
On the billboard, she replaced an image of a Trump airplane with a photo of the billionaire himself. “I had the artist shave off 20 years and 25 pounds,” Starr remembered. “Himself, idealized and sanctified, big as a building.”
Of course, Trump loved it and wanted to keep the ad up. Starr demanded all her back pay first. Then, Starr explained, “as soon as the check cleared, I regretfully told the agency guy we’d rented the board to someone else.”
6. Trump’s cheapness costs him more
When new coats of paint were needed at the Trump International Golf Club in Doral, near Miami, supplies were procured from the Paint Spot, a mom-and-pop shop about an hour up the road in Deerfield Beach. It was a big order: $200,000 in paint.
But the resort failed to pay the last invoice of $34,000. So the shop seized on a powerful tool: a construction lien that lets subcontractors who are stiffed claim the property on which they worked.
Trump’s lawyers argued that they had “paid enough,” but a Miami-Dade judge ruled that the resort must comply with the contract. He said that the resort must be sold and moved to have it put up for a courthouse auction.
Trump’s team relented and paid up, but the judge still sought justice for the little guy. He ruled that the Paint Spot’s attorney fees must be reimbursed, and even awarded them a “risk fee” for having fought the case. Their ultimate bill: $282,949.
“What the judge did, he gave us a multiplier on attorney’s fees for taking the risk,” says attorney Dan Vega. “A 1.75 multiplier. He basically gave us a reward.”