A statement from a Better Business Bureau (BBB) spokesperson confirmed fact-checkers' conclusions that Donald Trump has made misleading claims about Trump University's ratings from the consumer group.
On March 8, a spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau Serving Metropolitan New York issued a joint statement with the Council of Better Business Bureaus addressing “several misconceptions that have been reported publicly and repeated regarding Trump Entrepreneur Initiative (formerly Trump University).” Claire Rosenzweig, the president and CEO of the BBB Serving Metropolitan New York, the affiliate group responsible for maintaining records on Trump University, reiterated that the business's rating had “fluctuated between a D-minus and an A-plus” and explained that the low ratings of Trump University stemmed from “multiple consumer complaints about the business.” Rosenzweig asserted, “At no point did BBB change the rating of Trump University based upon a demand from anyone.” She explained that BBB policy automatically discounts ratings more than three years old, leading to a gradual upgrade in Trump University's rating over time as the business winded down and no new complaints were reported. Rosenzwieg also clarified that “Trump University has never been a BBB-accredited business.” From the March 8 news conference:
CLAIRE ROSENZWEIG: BBB did not send a document of any kind to the Republican debate site last Thursday evening. The document presented to debate moderators did not come from the BBB that night. Trump University does not currently have an “A” rating with BBB. The BBB business review for this company has continually been “no rating” since September of 2015. Prior to that, it fluctuated between a D-minus and an A-plus. The document posted on social media on Thursday night was not a current business review of Trump University. It appeared to be part of a business review from 2014.
BBB ratings are based on information we obtain about a business, including complaints received from the public. The reporting period is three years.
At no point did BBB change the rating of Trump University based upon a demand from anyone.
During the period when Trump University appeared to be active in the marketplace, BBB received multiple consumer complaints about this business. These complaints affected the Trump University BBB rating, which was as low as a D-minus in 2010. As the company appeared to be winding down after 2013, no new complaints were reported. Complaints over three years old automatically rolled off of the business review, according to BBB policy. As a result, over time, Trump University's BBB rating went to an A in July 2014 and then to an A-plus in January 2015.
Trump University has never been a BBB-accredited business. The document handed to the debate moderators on Thursday night could not have been an actual Better Business Bureau accreditation notice for this business.
BBB publishes ratings for both accredited and non-accredited businesses when we have sufficient information and the business continues to operate.
Trump's now-defunct Trump University business -- which The New York Times described as “not a real university at all but a series of seminars held in hotels across the country” -- is currently facing multiple pending lawsuits brought by former students and the state of New York alleging misrepresentation, leading to attacks against the GOP presidential front-runner from his rivals Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). In response to Cruz and Rubio's attacks on the campaign trail and at the February 25 CNN debate and March 3 Fox News debate, Trump continued to defend his business by repeatedly claiming that Trump University “has an 'A' rating from the Better Business Bureau,” tweeting a misleading screenshot he claimed represented the current BBB rating page for Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, and falsely alleging that the group had sent him a fax about the ratings during a commercial break at the Fox debate.
Previously, fact-checkers from PolitiFact, CNN's Reality Check, The Washington Post, and FactCheck.org all concluded that Trump's claims about Trump University's BBB rating were “misleading,” “literally wrong,” and “false,” citing an earlier BBB statement that explained that Trump U's rating has “fluctuated between an A+ and D-” and that Trump U. currently has no rating because it is “believed to be out of business.” The BBB has also previously clarified that the screenshot of the organization's website Trump tweeted following the March 3 Fox debate “did not show the current BBB Business Review or the current rating” for the business, and that the group did not send a fax to Trump during the debate. The March 8 statement reiterated that the document Trump tweeted and has subsequently referenced that showed the business holding an “A” rating was “not a current business review of Trump University.”