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FACT CHECK: Clinton's Speech On Trump And Atlantic City, Annotated

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in front of the shuttered Trump Plaza casino on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, N.J., on Wednesday.
The Washington Post/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in front of the shuttered Trump Plaza casino on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, N.J., on Wednesday.

Hillary Clinton spoke in Atlantic City, N.J. Wednesday, calling for more jobs in the city and blasting Donald Trump's business record in the area.

NPR's politics team has annotated Clinton's speech below. Portions we commented on are highlighted, followed by analysis, context and fact check in italics.

The speech follows:

That was really great. Thank you so very much.

I'll tell you there's no place like Atlantic City. I mean just think, the history, the boardwalk, saltwater taffy — it's no wonder that families come back year after year.

And I am so grateful to Marty Rosenberg, a native of Atlantic City, being here today to share his story. I'm also grateful to the thousands of workers, who work here to make this city what it is.

Atlantic City is more than a vacation spot. It's your livelihoods. It's how you support your families. Now, this city has its share of big names on big buildings. But you and I know it was built by small businesses and the people who work to make it happen here. As a daughter of a small-business man, whose hard work sent me to college, I have a special place in my heart for the contractors, the craftsmen and the shopkeepers who built this city and keep it going.

Now, it is no secret that Atlantic City has gone through some tough times.

[The city has seen a substantial decline in tourism in recent years. Read more here. Sarah McCammon]

But the people of A.C. are determined to turn things around. You've got a city council and a mayor working hand in hand. And if your governor would start doing his job instead of — instead of following Donald Trump around holding his coat, maybe we could really get New Jersey's economy moving again.

Now, here in Atlantic City and across America, we've got to create more good-paying jobs with good wages. We've got to make the economy work for everyone, everywhere, not just those at the top in some places.

And that is just one reason why this election is so important.

And as the people of Atlantic City know better than anyone — Donald Trump cannot do the job for American workers and businesses.

Now let's just look at this for a minute. Donald Trump says he's qualified to be president because of his business record. Now, three weeks ago, he said, and I quote, "I'm going to do for the country what I did for my business."

You know when he says things like that, he's probably hoping nobody will check up on what he has said. Because what he did for his businesses — and his workers — is nothing to brag about. In fact, it's shameful. And every single voter in America needs to know about it — so we don't let him do to our country what he did to his businesses.

Now, that is why I'm here today. We're standing in front of the old Trump Plaza Casino and Hotel. Donald Trump once predicted, "It will be the biggest hit yet." Now it's abandoned. You can just make out the word "TRUMP" where it used to be written in flashy lights. He had the letters taken down a few years ago.

[The letters were taken down in 2014 after Trump successfully sued to remove his name from the casino. — Sarah McCammon]

But his presence remains. And not far from here is the old Trump Marina Hotel Casino. A few years ago, it was sold at a huge loss.

Just down the boardwalk is the Trump Taj Mahal. Donald once called it the "Eighth Wonder of the World." It filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Things got so bad, the new management canceled workers' health insurance and pensions. And now those workers are on strike and we should all support them in getting a fair deal.

Now ask yourself: According to the Donald, isn't he supposed to be some kind of amazing businessman? So it's fair to ask, since he is applying for a job, what in the world happened here?

Now, his excuse for all this failure is that Atlantic City just went downhill — that it's not his fault.

But don't believe it. His businesses were failing long before the rest of the town was struggling.

[The Washington Post built a timeline analyzing Atlantic City's economic challenges alongside Trump's business woes and found a complicated relationship between the two. The newspaper found that Trump "took risks in a shaky economy" and ultimately used bankruptcy to avoid personal liability. — Sarah McCammon]

In fact, other businesses here did worse because Donald Trump acted so irresponsibly. He calls himself the "King of Debt," and he earned that title right here in A.C. His bad decisions hurt the whole city.

And here's what he did.

He intentionally ran up huge amounts of debt on his companies — hundreds of millions of dollars. He borrowed at high interest rates — even after promising regulators that he wouldn't. What came next? He defaulted on those loans. Didn't pay them back. And in the end, he bankrupted his companies — not once, not twice, but four times.

[Trump, like some other Atlantic City casino owners, resorted to bankruptcy for several of his casinos after running up unsustainable levels of debt. — Sarah McCammon]

And here's what he said about one of those bankruptcies: "I figured," he said, "it was the bank's problem, not mine. What the hell did I care?"

I'm guessing many of you have had debt at some point — student loans, mortgages, credit cards. You couldn't just tell the bank that you didn't feel like paying, could you?

[Personal and Chapter 11 corporate bankruptcies aren't entirely comparable, as this 2009 NPR piece explains. Personal bankruptcy often results in discharging debt — it's a declaration that the filer has nothing left to pay (one aside here: discharging student debt via personal bankruptcy is phenomenally difficult). Chapter 11 bankruptcy, meanwhile, is about restructuring debt but keeping the business going. As many outlets have pointed out, it can be considered a good business decision. However, for example, the Washington Post reported earlier this year that financial experts have questioned whether the Taj Mahal bankruptcy was indeed a "fantastic deal." — Danielle Kurtzleben]

And here's an important thing about how Donald Trump operates. He doesn't default and go bankrupt as a last resort. He does it over and over again on purpose — even though he knows he will leave others empty-handed while he keeps the plane, the helicopter, the penthouse.

He convinced other people that his Atlantic City properties were a great investment, so they would put in their own hard-earned money. But he always rigged it so he got paid, no matter how his companies performed. When this casino collapsed because of how badly he managed it, hundreds of people lost their jobs; shareholders were wiped out; lenders lost money; contractors — many of them small businesses — took heavy losses. And many themselves went bust.

But Donald Trump? He walked away with millions.

[Trump's response to accusations that he ran his companies into the ground through reckless borrowing has been that he had "great timing" and simply used bankruptcy law to his advantage, as business owners often do. — Sarah McCammon]

And here's what he says about the whole experience — he actually brags about it: "Atlantic City was a very good cash cow for me for a long time. ... The money I took out of there was incredible."

Think about it — the money he took out of here.

That says everything you need to know about Donald Trump. It's not about what he can build. It's about how much he can take.

You know, he did it again just this morning. He went on Twitter and said, "I made a lot of money in Atlantic City and left." Well, he got rich and got out, and he thinks that's something to be proud of.

He didn't just take advantage of investors. He took advantage of working people as well.

Donald Trump has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past 30 years. That's one every three days, give or take. And today's Wednesday, so he's due for another one.

Now here in Atlantic City, you may know about Vera Coking, the widow whose house on Columbia Place — right over there — Donald tried to seize it through eminent domain and turn it into a parking lot for limousines. Thankfully, he lost that fight.

[Here's the back story on Vera Coking. — Sarah McCammon]

But there were thousands more.

[USA Today found records of more than 3,500 legal filings by Trump and his companies over the past 30 years. — Sarah McCammon]

And many of those lawsuits were filed by ordinary Americans who worked for Donald Trump and never got paid. Painters, waiters, plumbers — people who needed the money they earned, and didn't get it — not because Donald Trump couldn't pay, but because he wouldn't pay. Hundreds of liens have been filed against him by contractors, going back decades. And they all tell the same story: I worked for him, I did my job, he wouldn't pay me what he owed me. One person after another after another.

We just heard from Marty Rosenberg. His company was called Atlantic Plate Glass. They were hired to do a big job for the Trump Taj Mahal. They worked really hard on it. But at some point, Donald Trump just stopped paying. In the end, he owed Marty's company nearly half a million dollars for the work they did under the agreement they made. Marty's business barely survived.

He did the same thing to a kitchen equipment company, a cabinetmaker, a music store owner. He owed $3.9 million to a company that supplied marble for his properties. That business had to shut down, and eventually, the owner had to file for personal bankruptcy: the cost of doing business with Donald Trump. Now, Donald Trump doesn't think going bankrupt is a big deal — but it's devastating if you're someone who plays by the rules.

I thought a lot about my dad in the last weeks as I've learned more about Donald Trump's business behavior.

My dad was a small-business man. If his customers had done to him what Trump did to these companies, he wouldn't have made it, either.

So this is personal for me. And it's personal for a lot of people.

It's not ancient history. If he's elected president, it's our future and the future of hardworking people across America.

Because I want you to understand [that] what he did here in Atlantic City is exactly what he will do if he wins in November.

Step 1: Give a huge tax cut to millionaires like himself. Step 2: Add trillions to our national debt. Step 3: He suggested we could just default on our national debt — like he defaulted on his business debt.

It is the same scam, over and over again.

And make no mistake — he's not asking for forgiveness. He's just hoping we forget.

The people he's trying to convince to vote for him now are the same people he's been exploiting for years: working people, small-business people, trying to support their families.

And you know, this seems to be his one move. He makes over-the-top promises, and says if people trust him, put their faith in him — he'll deliver for them. He'll make them wildly successful. Then everything falls apart, people get hurt and Donald gets paid.

Remember that, the next time you see him on TV, talking about how America will win big if we elect him president.

Those promises he's making at his rallies? They're the same promises he made to his customers at Trump University. Now they're suing him for fraud.

They're the same promises he made about another scheme called Trump Institute. The New York Times reports that the lessons it sold for thousands of dollars apiece were plagiarized from somebody else.

They're the same promises he made to his customers at Trump Condos in Baja California. You should hear these people's stories. They handed over their savings. Then their calls stopped getting answered. The condos were never built, and they never got their money back.

The Newark Star-Ledger says he — and I quote — "excels at ripping people off." They wrote — again I quote — "As a result of his narcissistic, destructive risk-taking with other people's money, his casinos posted huge losses while others thrived."

[Here is the editorial from the Star-Ledger editorial board where that first phrase appeared, and here is the second one. — Danielle Kurtzleben]

And remember, remember what he promised: "I'm going to do for the country what I did for my business."

Well, we should believe him — and make sure he never has the chance to bankrupt America the way he bankrupted his businesses.

So I just want you to take all this information and tell everybody you can. Because people need to make an informed choice. So when Trump says he is for working men and women of America, but Trump Furniture is made in Turkey instead of Lakewood, N.J., that matters. Trump Suits were made in Mexico, instead of Ashland, Pa. Trump Lamps are made in China, not Altoona, Pa.

If he wants to make America great again, maybe he should start by actually making things in America again.

[The Washington Post has documented multiple Trump products that are manufactured overseas. — Sarah McCammon]

That's not all. Donald Trump actually stood on a debate stage and said Americans' wages are too high.

He wants to get rid of the federal minimum wage.

[Trump's stated views on minimum wage have shifted during the campaign. In November, he said he believed U.S. wages were too high. Then in May, on Meet the Press, he said he thought $7.25 per hour was too low of a wage to live on. When host Chuck Todd pressed him on whether there should be a federally set minimum wage, Trump said, "No, I'd rather have the states go out and do what they have to do." — Danielle Kurtzleben]

His campaign said, let's sell off America's assets. Where do we start, the Statue of Liberty? These bad ideas just keep coming.

And he wants to wipe out the tough rules we put on big banks after the financial crisis. He'd rig the economy for Wall Street all over again. So we shouldn't be surprised. Of course he'd be for protecting a system where the rich and powerful stick it to everybody else. He got rich playing by those rules and he wants to keep it that way.

He says he's a businessman, and this is what businessmen do.

Well, as CNN has pointed out, no major company in America has filed Chapter 11 more often in the last 30 years than Trump's casinos.

[Here's that CNN report. — Sarah McCammon]

So no — this is not normal behavior.

Now look, there are companies in America — men and women who care about their workers and the people they do business with, and want to build something that lasts. They're decent. They're honest. Some might even make fine presidents. They would never dream of acting like Donald Trump.

In America, we don't begrudge people being successful — that's part of the American dream — but not if they get rich by destroying other people in the process.

So let's just make sure we don't put a person like this with his empty promises and his lifetime of selfishness in a position to destroy our lives.

This isn't about Democrats versus Republicans. This goes far beyond that. Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president of the United States.

So we can't let him roll the dice with our children's futures.

We need to write a new chapter in the American dream — and it sure cannot be Chapter 11.

So let's prove that this fall.

We believe in an America that values hard work, treats people with dignity, works to raise your wages, not lower them.

We believe in an America where small businesses are respected, not scammed. I have a plan to make sure big businesses can't stiff suppliers and contractors like Donald's been doing for years.

On this beautiful day in this historic city, we believe in an America where people of all religions and races get an equal shot, and our economy works for everyone, not just those at the top.

So let's carry that message all across America. Let's fight hard and win in November. And then let's get to work delivering results for the American people. We are stronger together. Thank you all so much.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.