Donald Trump has claimed that he doesn’t settle lawsuits. Settling, after all, would not be winning.
Yet in the first presidential debate Monday night, Trump’s defense against discrimination charges boiled down to this: “We settled.”
In 1973, the real estate company founded by Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was sued by the Department of Justice for steering African-American and Puerto Rican renters away from its properties. As the Washington Post reported, it was one of the biggest discrimination cases of its era, and Donald Trump was the 27-year-old president of the company at the time of the lawsuit.
Amid a back-and-forth over Trump’s history as a birther, Clinton noted the discrimination case, calling it part of a pattern of discrimination over Trump’s career.
“Remember, Donald started his career back in 1973 being sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination, because he would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African-Americans and he made sure that the people who worked for him understood that was the policy,” she said. “He has a long record of engaging in racist behavior.”
In its report, the Post detailed how the settlement came about:
The two sides eventually came to terms. On June 10, 1975, they signed an agreement prohibiting the Trumps from “discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or priveleges of sale or rental of a dwelling.” The Trumps were ordered to “thoroughly acquaint themselves personally on a detailed basis” with the Fair Housing Act.
The agreement also required the Trumps to place ads informing minorities they had an equal opportunity to seek housing at their properties.
The decree makes clear the Trumps did not view the agreement as a surrender, saying the settlement was “in no way an admission” of a violation.
On Monday, Trump brushed off the old allegations by noting the charges were settled.
“We settled without admission of guilt,” he said. “It was easy to do.”
Indeed, settling lawsuits is often easier than taking them to trial, where the risks and potential payouts are often greater. Trump, for whatever reason, has been reluctant to admit this, perhaps because he views settling as a form of losing.
When Trump University, his eponymous for-profit school, was recently sued for allegedly defrauding students, Trump boasted that he wouldn’t settle.
“It would be easy for me to settle the case, it’s a simple civil case,” he said. “Probably I should, but I don’t want to because I give them a great soundbite, but I don’t settle cases. I don’t get sued because I don’t settle cases, I win in court.”
And yet Trump has settled often. As The Huffington Post recently reported, just this year Trump resolved union-busting allegations at his Las Vegas hotel by settling them. And as ThinkProgress has noted, Trump resolved at least 13 legal cases through settlements.