During this lengthy and bitter election cycle, a great deal of attention has been paid to the many failed business ventures associated with real estate mogul Donald Trump, who has campaigned for the presidency largely on the strength of his supposed financial acumen. If he’s such a hotshot, pundits ask, why have so many of his projects tanked? Much of this discussion has revolved around the allegedly fraudulent Trump University, but it should not be forgotten that the star of NBC’s The Apprentice also tried without success to break into the magazine business in various ways from 1998 to 2009. One person who will never forget is writer and critic Carey Purcell, who had the misfortune of working as receptionist for one of Trump’s badly mismanaged, short-lived “wealth porn” mags in 2006 and 2007. Over at Politico, she tells her story in an article called “I Survived Trump Magazine—Barely.” That title is all too literal: Purcell’s health insurance from this job lapsed while she was undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer. Her experiences make for a chilling cautionary tale.
In her time working for Trump, Purcell never actually met the brash reality TV personality. Hoping to cash in on his then-cresting fame from his NBC show, Trump simply lent his name to the glossy lifestyle magazine and had final approval over its content, but he did not run the publication himself, Purcell reveals. Instead, that responsibility went to a mysterious, somewhat shady figure named Michael Jacobson, who had previously worked for Bob Guccione. Trump’s trust in this man was apparently misplaced. Jacobson was a notoriously unreliable boss, Purcell writes, frequently disappearing from the office for days at a time. Meanwhile, the magazine’s debts were accumulating, and bills went unpaid. As the receptionist, Purcell was the first to receive the eviction notices. These made her understandably nervous, especially when she was diagnosed with cancer. That’s a bad time for paychecks to start bouncing.
Though she made it through her ordeal and managed to find employment and insurance elsewhere, Purcell has not forgiven Jacobson or Trump for her experiences a decade ago. Her condemnation is scathing and unmistakable:
As a candidate, Trump has built his campaign on his success as a businessman, boasting about his successful deals, the jobs he claims he has created and his personal wealth. But in the case of Trump magazine, he licensed his name to an inept and irresponsible businessman who broke promises, put its staff out on the street, and left a cancer patient without health care. Almost 10 years have passed since this took place. It has left me hoping that come Nov. 8, Donald Trump will add another item to his long list of failures.