Way before LeBron James was starting schools, Donald Trump was. Remember Trump University?

And you get a fake education! And you!
And you get a fake education! And you!
Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump was elected to the highest office in the United States. He’s still not above sporadic celebrity beefing.

After NBA star LeBron James said in a CNN interview this week that “[Trump]’s kinda used sports to kinda divide us, and that’s something I can’t relate to,” the US president tweeted in retaliation that “[interviewer Don Lemon] made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”

James has a very positive public image. Generally regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he has also won favor by building a public, non-charter school for at-risk kids. Last week, the school, called I Promise, welcomed its first two classes of third- and fourth-graders. Students will receive free uniforms, free meals, and free transportation to school, among other things.

Trump has also opened a school. But in a class-action complaint filed against Trump in 2013, Trump University students alleged that the for-profit organization ripped them off. Among other things, the unaccredited “university” misrepresented Trump’s personal involvement and mischaracterized itself as an elite school with professors, they said.

Says one complaint:

Defendant uniformly misled Plaintiff and the Class that they would learn Donald Trump’s real estate secrets through him and his handpicked professors at his elite “University.” The misleading nature of the enterprise is embodied by its very name. That is because, though Defendant promised “Trump University,” he delivered neither Donald Trump nor a University.

The same complaint quotes marketing material from Trump:

We’re going to have professors and adjunct professors that are absolutely terrific. Terrific people. Terrific brains. Successful. The best. We are going to have the best of the best. And, honestly, if you don’t learn from them, if you don’t learn from me, if you don’t learn from the people that we’re going to be putting forward, and these are all people that are handpicked by me, then, you’re just not gonna make it in terms of the world of success. And that’s okay, but you’re not gonna make it in terms of success.

The New York State Education Department rebuked the now-defunct company for its misleading use of “university,” and the Better Business Bureau has never accredited the organization.

Defending his school in a Fox News interview in Feb. 2016, Trump said, “98 percent approved the courses. They thought they were terrific.” (In that interview he also intimated he might ask for a recusal because the judge presiding over the case was of Hispanic origin and therefore hostile to Trump.)

After saying he wouldn’t settle, Trump eventually settled the lawsuit for $25 million.