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Trump 'Stiffed' His Family, GOP Strategist Says


During Monday's presidential debate, Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump for failing to pay people who'd done work for him.


HILLARY CLINTON: I have met a lot of the people who were stiffed by you and your businesses, Donald. I've met dishwashers, painters, architects, glass installers, marble installers, drapery installers like my dad was, who you refuse to pay when they finished the work that you asked them to do.

SHAPIRO: She talked about an architect in the audience who had never been paid. And then a Republican strategist named Brian Walsh tweeted this.

BRIAN WALSH: True story, my dad's company was stiffed by Trump on a six-figure telecom job in the 1980s. Trump told them it would cost more to sue him.

SHAPIRO: That's Brian Walsh, who joins us now in the studio with more on his family's story. Welcome.

WALSH: Good to be with you, thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: What kind of work did your father do for Trump?

WALSH: He had a small telecom company in the 1980s. And keep in mind, we're talking about an incident that was roughly 35 years ago. And this company since has been sold over 20 years ago. But it was one of Mr. Trump's first projects in New York City at the time.

And my father would often recall over the years - and he's particularly brought up in the last 18 months as Mr. Trump has been running for president - you know, an incident when he had a very, very hard time getting paid, and ultimately didn't get paid his full amount that was owed.

And so the message that was sent along was that you could take him to court, but it would ultimately cost more to sue him and litigate it out over the years than to just, you know, walk away.

SHAPIRO: You said this was a six-figure job. That is a lot in today's money, it was certainly a lot of 1980s money. How much of an impact did that have on your father's economic livelihood?

WALSH: Yeah. And like I said, this is - this was, you know, a recollection from over 35 years ago, so unfortunately we don't necessarily still have the documentation.

You know, look, he was more fortunate than others. Many small business owners who worked with Donald Trump ultimately regretted it. And, you know, fortunately, you know, my dad's company went on to succeed. But it was also a lesson learned not to do business with him and his organization again.

SHAPIRO: Why did you decide to make this public on Twitter during the debate?

WALSH: Well, I think like many Americans, you know, I have very serious concerns about not just Donald Trump's temperament, but his experience and qualifications for the job.

And as an American and a voter, Hillary Clinton's attacks resonated with me. And I just was sitting there smiling saying yes, you know, I actually have a personal firsthand knowledge of this.

SHAPIRO: During the debate, Trump said maybe the work was shoddy, maybe I wasn't satisfied with it. Could that be the case in your father's situation?

WALSH: Well, my dad's recollection was that for months he and his organization made up every excuse they could think of to not have to pay their bills. And they had to go back and he wanted this done over and this done over. And then finally he ran out of excuses to pay the final invoice. And he basically, you know, was told to take a hike.

SHAPIRO: The media has reported many stories similar to the one you're describing your father having experienced. And yet, it's not at all clear that that is hurting Donald Trump in the polls. Why do you think that is?

WALSH: I think it's very surprising. I think it's also surprising that it didn't come up more in the Republican primary. But I think part of the issue is that there's so many Americans who just don't like Hillary Clinton, that they're willing to look past some of this.

SHAPIRO: Have you decided who you'll vote for?

WALSH: I am firmly in none of the above. I am a lifelong Republican. And I couldn't bring myself - and there are - you know, there are some issues I support Hillary Clinton on like immigration reform. But there are too many other issues that I couldn't bring myself to vote for her.

So I'm focused on hoping the Republicans control the House and the Senate. And we'll see who wins in November. But I will not be voting for either one of them.

SHAPIRO: Brian Walsh is a Republican strategist with a public affairs group Rokk Solutions.

And we asked the Trump campaign for comment. They told us they were unfamiliar with the incident Walsh is describing.

Mr. Walsh, thanks for joining us.

WALSH: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.