By Robert Faturechi, ProPublica
According to court records dug up by The Los Angeles Times, Trump’s crude treatment of women extends to his employees. The newspaper recently reported that employees at a Trump golf club in California alleged the real estate tycoon wanted to fire less-attractive employees.
On this week’s podcast, we spoke with the reporter on the story, Matt Pearce, about how he unearthed new details from the lawsuit records and got former employees to open up about their experiences.
A few highlights from our conversation:
Tell us how you found the lawsuit.
Buried in the court docket ... that attorney that was handling the class action lawsuit for the employees filed something like almost 700 pages of legal document ... A lot of it is just legal arguments, and snippets of depositions, but tucked into all those documents were these very interesting legal statements from employees who were supporting the lawsuit. As I began to read them I very quickly noticed that over and over again many of these employees had very similar allegations of when Donald Trump would come into town from New York to visit ... the golf course would always staff the course's club restaurant with young, attractive, slender women.
Did any of these allegations make it in the news when this was first filed years ago, or was there less of a focus on this because he wasn't the Republican presidential nominee?
Interestingly [the celebrity gossip website] TMZ picked it up in 2008. It was a very short TMZ blog post, but reporters never really dug in beyond that, and I think part of the reason is these other employee statements that were supporting what she said didn't come until 2012. This lawsuit had basically been gestating in court for four years as the attorneys were gathering evidence, and doing depositions, and it seems that no one ever actually went back and looked back at that case, and gave additional scrutiny to the original claims in the lawsuit even though they had gotten very basic news coverage in the beginning ... It's kind of amazing to say it because Donald Trump is one of the most examined public figures in our time, but it seems that there was still room to kind of scrape around, and look in the public record, and find these things that no one had actually looked at before.
Who did you reach out to who helped you, at least to some extent, substantiate these allegations?
The difficult part, and this is the part that was a little bit frustrating, is that I began the process of contacting the employees involved in the lawsuit. And they had signed, either as part of their employment with the club or as part of the lawsuit, nondisclosure agreements essentially forbidding them to talk about it. I managed to locate one key employee who was in a position to kind of have knowledge of how the club was run, and Donald Trump's influence on how managers ran the club. This employee couldn't speak. They're afraid of retaliation, so I can't really go into detail of what they said, but they essentially described a culture that lined up with the very broad range of anecdotes and stories that the other employees had given in the lawsuit, which essentially described a culture at the club in which managers were essentially either afraid or wanting to please Donald Trump.