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Trump in 1993. Photo: Newshub via AP

Trump has been playing the media like a fiddle for more than 30 years. I was reminded of that fact this week while reading Harry Hurt's 1993 book, "Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump."

Hurt recounts how Trump used the New York tabloids to counter a string of high-profile reports that his real net worth was far below what he claimed and that — far from riding a wave of success — his financial empire was crumbling under mounting debts.

This passage is as revealing as it is amusing:

Donald responds with a desperate disinformation campaign... [He] orders his public relations network to plant rumors in the tabloid press that he is sitting on a multibillion-dollar treasure trove of cash. New York Post columnist Cindy Adams is the first — but by no means the last — to take the bait.

"Everyone's heard tales about how poor D.T. is leveraged out, how even his Taj is up for grabs because he needs money. Bullbleep," Adams writes in her column of May 22 [1990]. Alluding to [a] Forbes cover story without mentioning it by name, she declares that Donald is hardly down to his last half billion dollars. "How these august respectable financial journals overlooked certain hidden pockets in Donald's wallet, I haven't the foggiest... This guy is sitting on 4 billion. Cash. Billion with a 'b.'"

Postscript, per Hurt: "There is, of course, a good reason why rumors of Donald's $4 billion cash hoard have not made the front pages of the financial journals. The rumors are not true. There is also a good reason why Donald feels it is so important to spread such rumors. He needs people to believe that they are true in order to stave off a run on his empire."

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