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Donald Trump, Mort Zuckerman Spar Over 'Saving Daily News' Claim

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NEW YORK -- Real estate mogul Donald Trump swung back Friday at Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman for refuting his claim that he once prevented the New York City newspaper from going under.

On Thursday, Trump told New York Post State Editor Fred Dicker that he "saved" the Daily News. The two were discussing the paper's cover three days earlier, which had mocked his presidential aspirations as a circus sideshow. Trump, however, declined to get into specifics during the radio show.

But in a Friday morning interview with The Huffington Post, Trump explained what he meant by the claim. Trump said that Zuckerman and then-co-owner of the Daily News Fred Drasner called him 12 years ago "because they were going to close the paper." Trump, by his recollection, said that the Daily News was being required to pay about $50 million in an arbitration ruling and the financial strain would have force the paper to shutter.

Here's how the New York Times described the case in July 1999: "A Federal judge yesterday upheld a labor arbitrator's decision to award retroactive wages to members of the drivers' union at the Daily News, a move that could eventually cost the newspaper tens of millions of dollars."

Trump said that, during a meeting with Drasner in his office, he recommended that the Daily News hire Jay Goldberg, an an attorney who'd represented him several times in court.

Although the Times noted in the aforementioned article that it would be "unusual for an arbitration case to be overturned" on appeal, a judge threw out the ruling five months later. The Daily News, at the time, reported that the paper saved $25 million.

"I recommended him, Jay Goldberg. I saved the paper," Trump said. "All I do, for years, is get negative press out of the Daily News. The good news is, nobody cares, obviously."

Goldberg backed up Trump's claim that he was integral in recommending him for the job and, therefore, should have been thanked after the paper won the case. Goldberg's website notes the legal victory on behalf of the Daily News along with several cases involving Trump.

"Donald gave life -- really, gave life -- to the 80-year-old Daily News," Goldberg said, referring to the paper having been founded in 1919.

Zuckerman, however, doesn't buy it.

In a Friday interview with The Huffington Post, Zuckerman said he never called Trump about the arbitration case and doesn't know Goldberg. "If they think this saved the News, it's certainly news to me," Zuckerman said.

In a subsequent phone call later that day, Zuckerman said he'd learned that his former business partner already knew Goldberg before the Daily News was in legal trouble and Trump could have intervened. Indeed, Goldberg had represented Drasner in his divorce.

But Goldberg, by his account, said he only assisted another attorney in Drasner's divorce case and that it never went to trial. Therefore, Goldberg said Drasner would still have likely have needed Trump's reassurance that he was up to the task of representing the newspaper.

Both Trump and Zuckerman -- real estate moguls who've had political aspirations over the years -- aren't giving an inch.

Zuckerman said that he likes Trump but joked that, if Trump thinks that by recommending an attorney -- which remains a matter of debate -- he saved the Daily News, "I'd like him to send a lawyer to the U.S. Congress to save the budget."

While Trump described Drasner as a "great guy," he didn't have such kind words for Zuckerman.

"Mort has a very short memory," Trump said. "And Mort has always wanted to be a star and he can't be. It's not in his blood. Stardom can't be his."

Drasner did not respond to a request for comment on what happened 12 years ago.

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Trump never 'saved' NYDN, says Zuckerman