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October 16th, 2017

The Fact Checker: The Truth Behind the Rhetoric

CAUGHT: Pro-Clinton group takes a Donald Trump quote out of context

Glenn Kessler

By Glenn Kessler The Washington Post

Published August 24, 2016

 CAUGHT: Pro-Clinton group takes a Donald Trump quote out of context
"You have to be wealthy in order to be great, I'm sorry to say it."

--- Donald Trump, quoted in a new ad by Priorities USA

With the wealth of outrageous Trump statements available to opposition researchers, why would a pro-Hillary Clinton group push the envelope by taking a quote out of context? Beats us. But we've caught Priorities USA playing this game before.

This is actually a clever ad, showing individuals who might be affected personally by Trump's language watching his remarks as they are played on the television. One quote - his mocking of a disabled reporter - is viewed by a person in a wheelchair. Trump certainly said this, and we have written extensively on this case before.

Another quote concerns Trump's assertion that he didn't think Sen. John McCain was a war hero because he had been captured. This scene features an elderly man wearing a veterans cap. The ad, which will run in the battleground states of North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Iowa, ends with the words: "Donald Trump: Unfit to be President."

But two of the quotes require a little more context and explanation.

- "Putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing … and I don't want to sound too much like a chauvinist."

Trump made this statement in 1994 during an interview with ABC News, after saying he had made a mistake by allowing his first wife, Ivana Trump, to take a management role at one of his casinos. Here's the context in which he made this statement. The ad melds two separate parts of an interview, in which he talks about the employment of Ivana and also his second wife, Marla Maples:

"I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing," Trump said. "If you're in business for yourself, I really think it's a bad idea to put your wife working for you. I think it's a really bad idea. I think that was the single greatest cause of what happened to my marriage with Ivana."

He said that after he noticed a change in her demeanor while she was working for him, that changed his feelings toward her.

"Ivana would get angry at somebody over the telephone, all of a sudden, who was at the casino, and she'd start shouting. And I'd say, 'I don't want my wife shouting at somebody like that, I really don't want that,' " Trump said.

"And a softness disappeared," he continued. "There was a great softness to Ivana, and she still has that softness, but during this period of time, she became an executive, not a wife."

Trump also expressed mixed feelings about allowing Maples to take a job. "I have days where I think it's great," he said. "And then I have days where, if I come home - and I don't want to sound too much like a chauvinist - but when I come home and dinner's not ready, I go through the roof."

The section about Maples fits more clearly with the narrative of the ad, as the section about Ivana Trump is more about having a wife work for her husband.

--- "You have to be wealthy in order to be great, I'm sorry to say it."

When the ad shows Trump saying this, a workman working in a cramped space looks up sadly. Perhaps he would not be so sad if he knew the full context of Trump's statement.

During a May 26 appearance in North Dakota, on the day he secured enough delegates to clinch the Republican nomination, Trump focused on energy policy and crime rates, and how he would make the United States great again. At one point he said: "There's one more thing we have to do to make America wealthy again. And you have to be wealthy in order to be great, I'm sorry to say it."

As can be seen, this attack ad takes Trump's statement out of context. He's talking about making the country wealthy - not an individual's wealth. One could argue that Trump is too focused on associating wealth with greatness, but listening to the rest of his speech, it's clear that he was talking about increasing incomes for all Americans.

"All we're doing is showing real people reacting to some of the dangerous and divisive statements Donald Trump has made," said Priorities USA Action spokesman Justin Barasky. "You are assigning context."

Once again, we are puzzled why this pro-Clinton group feels the need to push the envelope with Trump's rhetoric. Two of the quotes are quite damning, but are rendered accurately. The quote about a wife working is missing some context but the essence of Trump's attitude is captured. But the quote about how you need to be wealthy in order to be great is simply devoid of context

At worst, Trump's comments in North Dakota were a bit of a gaffe, much like Clinton's ill-advised comments on putting coal miners out of jobs while she was pitching her plan to revitalize coal communities.

Context is important - and quotes from politicians shouldn't be used if a snippet leaves a different impression than the reality.

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An award-winning journalism career spanning nearly three decades, Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street. He was The Washington Post's chief State Department reporter for nine years, traveling around the world with three different Secretaries of State. Before that, he covered tax and budget policy for The Washington Post and also served as the newspaper's national business editor. Kessler has long specialized in digging beyond the conventional wisdom, such as when he earned a "laurel" from the Columbia Journalism Review

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