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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Social Posts Distort Facts on Trump Charities

Quick Take

Posts on social media falsely claim that the Trump family is “disallowed from operating ANY charity” in New York because they “stole from a kids cancer charity.” That inaccurately describes the outcome of a court case involving the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and conflates it with allegations about the Eric Trump Foundation.

Full Story 

President Donald Trump’s namesake charitable foundation agreed to cease operations in late 2018 as part of an agreement with New York’s attorney general, who alleged that the nonprofit organization was improperly leveraged to further Trump’s business and political interests. A November court order resolved the lawsuit, and Trump ultimately paid a total of $2 million in damages to eight charities, which also received equal portions of the foundation’s remaining $1.8 million.

But it is not the case, as viral social media posts claim, that the Trump family was “disallowed from operating ANY charity” in New York “because they stole from a kids cancer charity.” That distorts the facts on a number of fronts, including by conflating two separate matters.

First of all, it’s wrong to say the family was “disallowed” from operating a charity in the state. There was no such stipulation in the settlement with the attorney general.

While the attorney general’s lawsuit initially asked the court to bar Trump and his grown children who sat on the foundation’s board from serving as any charity’s “officer, director, trustee or equivalent position” for a period of time, the settlement reached did not do that.

Instead, the agreement imposes a number of requirements that the president must meet if he “decides to serve as an officer or director of a pre-existing charitable organization” — or “form a new charitable organization and serve as an officer or director thereof” — in New York. For example, if Trump were to start a new organization, he would need to “provide Annual Reports to the Attorney General for 5 years.”

It also required Trump’s children — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump — to participate in “mandatory training” relating to charitable organizations, which the three have already undergone.

There also was no part of the state’s lawsuit that dealt with allegations that the Trump Foundation “stole from a kids cancer charity,” as the posts claim.

That detail appears to stem from a 2017 Forbes story that alleged Eric Trump’s separate nonprofit organization, the Eric Trump Foundation, engaged in self-dealing and misled donors.

The magazine wrote that the foundation publicly proclaimed that all proceeds from its annual golf tournament at a Trump golf club would go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. However, while the foundation did donate millions to that organization, it also made large payments to the Trump Organization to host the event and some funds were directed to different charities, Forbes found.

While the New York attorney general’s office said it was “looking into” the findings of the Forbes report back in 2017, those allegations were not part of the lawsuit involving the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

Eric Trump has since resigned from his foundation, which has rebranded as Curetivity.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.


A.G. Underwood Announces Stipulation Dissolving Trump Foundation Under Judicial Supervision, With AG Review Of Recipient Charities.” Press release, New York State Office of the Attorney General. 18 Dec 2018.

Alexander, Don. “How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business.” Forbes. 6 Jun 2017.

Alexander, Don and Matt Drange. “New York Attorney General Looking Into Eric Trump Foundation.” Forbes. 9 Jun 2017.

Attorney General Underwood Announces Lawsuit Against Donald J. Trump Foundation And Its Board Of Directors For Extensive And Persistent Violations Of State And Federal Law.” Press release, New York State Office of the Attorney General. 14 Jun 2018.

Donald J. Trump Pays Court-Ordered $2 Million For Illegally Using Trump Foundation Funds.” Press release, New York State Office of the Attorney General. 10 Dec 2019.

The People of the State of New York v. Donald Trump, et. al. Index No. 451130/2018. Decision + Order on Petition. Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York. 7 Nov 2019.