Donald Trump often talks about his success as a businessman creating thousands of jobs. But Marco Rubio says Trump hardly pulled that off on his own.
Among their many testy exchanges at the Republican debate in Detroit on March 3, 2016, was how much wealth Trump inherited.
"He talks about these great businesses that he's built," Rubio said. "He inherited over $100 million."
Trump interjected: "Wrong. Wrong. Wrong."
Trump added, "First of all, I got a call from my sister and brother tonight, and they said, ‘We had no idea Dad gave you $200 million.’ Believe me, I started off with $1 million. I built a company that's worth more than $10 billion. And I say it not in a bragging way, but that's the kind of thinking we need."
Did Trump inherit over $100 million as Rubio said at the March 3 debate? Trump did inherit money, but we could find no independent way to confirm the amount, so we are not rating the statement on our Truth-O-Meter. However, we will review what we do know about Trump's finances.
We asked a Rubio spokesman for his evidence that Trump inherited more than $100 million. (Rubio cited an even higher number of $200 million at a Feb. 25 debate.)
"The evidence would be on Donald Trump's tax returns right? Guess he'll need to shoot those on over to disprove the claim," Joe Pounder told PolitiFact. "Until then, all we have is his word that his inheritance was split amongst family members … All we know is there was an inheritance of up to $200 million. Donald Trump has never disputed the inheritance."
But news reports show that it’s a bit of a mystery how much Trump inherited from his father, Fred Sr. When he died in 1999, the New York Times reported that "his estate has been estimated by the family at $250 million to $300 million." The New York Daily News reported at the time that the estate was worth $100 million to $300 million based on family estimates.
But how was it divvied up? That’s something that reporters have tried to sort out during the 2016 race.
The New York Times reported Jan. 2 that Fred Sr.’s will "divided the bulk of the inheritance, at least $20 million, among his children and their descendants, ‘other than my son Fred C. Trump Jr.’ "
Some of the grandchildren sued, and an "amicable" settlement was worked out.
But Donald Trump received money from his father long before his death.
A National Journal writer, S.V. Dáte, estimated Trump started with $40 million in 1974 when he became president of his father’s real estate company. By one estimate, the firm was worth about $200 million. Divided among Donald Trump and his four siblings, each would have received $40 million.
But the company wasn’t liquidated that year, so Trump didn’t receive that as cash.
In 1982, after running his father’s firm for eight years, Forbes magazine estimated Trump’s worth at $200 million.
A Trump spokeswoman disagreed with Rubio’s claim but did not provide any evidence to refute it.
Rubio has a point that Trump isn’t entirely a self-made man. Trump took over his father’s business, and he inherited money when his father died. Verifying the specific amounts remains difficult.
New York Times, "Fred C. Trump, Postwar Master Builder of Housing for Middle Class, Dies at 93," June 26, 1999
New York Daily News, "INSIDE TRUMPS' BITTER BATTLE Nephew's ailing baby caught in the middle," Dec. 19, 2000
New York Times, "For Donald Trump, Lessons From a Brother’s Suffering," Jan. 2, 2016
New York Times, "The Lives They Lived: Fred C. Trump, b. 1905; The Fred," Jan. 2, 2000
New York Times, "What’s he really worth?" Oct. 23, 2005
The Fact Checker, "Trump’s false claim he built his empire with a ‘small loan’ from his father," March 3, 2016
PunditFact, "Occupy Democrats graphic oversimplifies Trump's inheritance," Dec. 9, 2015
CNN, "Republican debate: Marco Rubio finds his fire," Feb. 26, 2016
Washington Post The Fix, "The Fox News GOP debate transcript, annotated," March 3, 2016
Interview, Joe Pounder, Marco Rubio spokesman, March 4, 2016
Interview, Hope Hicks, Donald Trump spokeswoman, March 4, 2016