Fox News hosts downplayed fraud allegations against Trump University, claiming the techniques used by the real estate seminar business were “good marketing” and “quite mainstream” when reporting on recently unsealed documents pertaining to two class-action lawsuits against the now-defunct business.
The hosts were referring to Trump University's allegedly fraudulent business practices and misrepresentations, detailed in three ongoing lawsuits in multiple states against the business. The release of new documents related to two of these cases challenges claims about Trump's own role in developing the real estate seminars and point to Trump U's misrepresentation of itself as a university. They also reveal former students' testimonies that the seminars did not deliver on promised real estate “secrets” and that instructors misled students in order to sell them higher-cost classes and elicit positive reviews. According to New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, “there wasn't one piece of his pitch that was actually true.”
However, when Fox News’ Outnumbered brought up the story, co-host Jedediah Bila questioned whether these allegedly fraudulent practices were really just “aggressive sales tactics”, which some would call “good marketing.” Fox senior judicial analyst Judge Andre
From the June 1 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
JEDEDIAH BILA (CO-HOST): New details in lawsuit that could impact Donald Trump's campaign. So-called playbooks for selling people on Trump University unsealed yesterday when testimony by some former managers of the for-profit school was also revealed. Those former Trump employees describing aggressive sales tactics they say they were told to use, such as, urging financially-strapped customers to find the money, choosing words of flattery that are most persuasive, and picking specific music for the gatherings. But Trump's lawyers say the complaints come from a small number of students and that the vast majority were satisfied with their experience. A statement from the Trump organization says, quote, the courts order unsealing documents has no bearing on the merits of Trump University's case. Much of the unsealed evidence including declarations and surveys from former Trump University students demonstrates the high level of satisfaction from students and that Trump University taught valuable real estate information. Judge, I got to come to you, what do you think of this from a legal perspective? Is this going to impact him? You're talking about aggressive sales tactics. In some circles they refer to that as good marketing. What is the line here for that?
ANDREW NAPOLITANO: I do not know the merits of the case against him. I know that there is a group of his former students, if they were students, who paid a lot of money and felt they didn't get their money's worth and they have sued and if you add up all their demands it comes up to about 40 million bucks, a lot of money for anybody. I also know some of them are suing him personally, that he is not protected by the corporate shield. I assume that Trump University was a corporation. But what we just saw, what you just summarized, asked people to go out and find the money, talked to them using flattering words, play the right music in the background, what the heck is wrong with that? I can't see that as violating any standard of salesmanship. Look, this isn't Princeton University where you are trying to get in there, or Harvard. It's a school that has to sell itself and show what it has available and that's the job of these salespeople who as far as I can see used techniques that were quite mainstream.
BILA: Yeah, I mean when the public hears this story, I'm wondering do they just see this as non-story? When I read some of this, I worked in marketing before, a lot of it just read like sales tactics that weren't necessarily corrupt or anything. It was just aggressive sales tactics is not a crime.
MELISSA FRANCIS (CO-HOST): You know, it goes to the story of him as an aggressive businessperson who wanted to sort of profit at all costs which is kind of what business is all about. And I think people do hear that, but like any line of attack, especially when it comes from the Clintons, it opens up coming back on them. For example, a lot of good work that was done by The New York Times and Charles Ortel that was pulled out recently, we saw that Bill Clinton got $16 million from Laureate University, which is another for-profit university which makes Trump University look like a bodega on the corner. They're guilty of the same thing.