Donald Trump has surprised many by not only entering the race for the Republican Party’s 2016 nomination for President, but quickly building a substantial lead in the polls.
So who exactly is Donald Trump?
Donald John Trump was born in 1946 in Queens, New York. He’s been wealthy his entire life. His father, Fred Trump built a very successful real estate development business in the New York area, allowing he and his wife, the Scottish immigrant Mary MacLeod, to settle their family in the upscale Jamaica Estates neighborhood. There Donald attended the private Kew-Forest school before his parents sent him to the New York Military Academy when he was 13 years old. Donald did well and eventually earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.
When he was 25 Donald moved to Manhattan and took a bigger role in the family business, but within two years he and the company were in hot water, as Trump Management was accused by the Justice Department of violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent or negotiate rentals ‘because of race and color.’ Though Trump eventually settled the charges out of court, the company was still blasted as ‘antiblack’ on the frontpage of the New York Times.
Donald became president of the company in 1974 and, after an investment from his father, took on bigger projects in Manhattan with some notable successes including selling the property to the City of New York that became the Javits Convention Center.
Around this time he began his 15 year marriage to the Czech-born athlete and model Ivana Zelníčková. They became fixtures on the New York social circuit and their 1992 divorce played out in the tabloids.
In 1993, Donald married the actress Marla Maples, the woman he had been cheating on his first wife Ivana with for six years.
Meanwhile, bad business decisions — like his acquisition of the Taj Mahal Atlantic City hotel and casino — had him deep in the red by the end of the 80’s, forcing him to declare several businesses bankrupt, costing his investors hundreds of millions of dollars.
But “The Donald” doesn’t stay down and out for long and, with the help of about $75 million in inheritance after his father’s death, his fortunes were buoyed once again. By the early 2000’s Trump’s name began appearing on developments and towers all over the country — and world — including across the street from the United Nations Headquarters and towers in Chicago, Honolulu, and Toronto–though projects in Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, and Dubai failed to reach completion.
In 2005, Donald married his third and current wife, the Slovenian model Melania Knauss.
But what really put Trump on the map of American consciousness is his role as executive producer and host of the popular NBC reality tv show ‘The Apprentice’ and its spinoff, ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ in which contestants engage in competitive business endeavors before final meetings in a boardroom set across the table from The Donald and some of his most trusted associates, like daughter Ivanka. Trump has made out like a bandit from his involvement in the show, earning more than $200 million over its 11 year run.
This year, Donald declared his candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination in a long-winded, completely off-the-cuff speech that was widely mocked by the American media. Building on his xenophobic hatred of President Obama and unsubstantiated claims that the Commander-In-Chief was actually born in Kenya, Trump’s main campaign pledge has been that he would build a massive wall along the entire length of the US-Mexico border to keep Mexico from sending its “criminals” to the United States, despite the numerous documented cases of Trump employing undocumented workers in many of his building projects and hotels.
Trump’s unconventional approach to politics and brash statements have quickly established him as the clear frontrunner of the nearly 20 major candidates vying for the Republican nomination, even though he’s never been elected to public office and used to hold fairly progressive political political positions like being pro-abortion and supporting the establishment of a Universal Healthcare system.
After declaring his candidacy, federal election regulators released new details of Trump’s wealth and financial holdings that strongly contradict his claims that his “net worth is in excess of ten billion dollars.” In fact, the government says Trump’s assets are worth far less, at about $1.4 billion.