NEW YORK (AP) — Under pressure to account for money he claimed to raise for veterans, an irritated Donald Trump lambasted the news media Tuesday for pressing the issue and listed charities he said have now received millions of dollars from a fundraiser he held in January.
Phone calls to all 41 of the groups by The Associated Press brought more than two-dozen responses Tuesday. About half reported checks from Trump within the past week, typically dated May 24, the day The Washington Post published a story questioning whether he had distributed all of the money.
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, told reporters at a testy news conference in New York that the fundraiser, held at the same time as a Fox News GOP debate he was boycotting, raised $5.6 million. He previously had declined to disclose which charities had received the funds, and his campaign has gone back and forth about how much was raised.
"The money's all been sent," Trump said at the news conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday.
He repeatedly criticized the press for making the money an issue, saying reporters "should be ashamed of themselves" for asking where the money had gone.
Throughout the event, Trump slammed the media as "unbelievably dishonest" for its treatment of the issue and dismissed an ABC reporter as "a sleaze." He said many times that he didn't want credit for the fundraising but seemed peeved that he wasn't thanked for it.
"Instead of being like, 'Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,' or 'Trump did a good job,' everyone's saying, 'Who got it? Who got it? Who got it?' And you make me look very bad," Trump complained, taking on reporters in the room. "I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.
The Trump campaign listed donations to 41 veterans groups, including one not yet been sent money due to a vetting issue. The Associated Press spoke or left messages Tuesday with each of the organizations.
Among the checks sent out on May 24 was $1 million from Trump himself, sent to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, a group that provides scholarships to the children of Marines and federal agents killed in the line of duty. Trump's campaign had previously told the newspaper that Trump's promised $1 million donation had already been distributed.
Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had originally told the Post that the event had raised about $4.5 million — less than the $6 million originally announced by Trump — because some who'd pledged contributions had backed out. Lewandowski also said all the money had been given out.
Trump had claimed during the fundraiser that he'd raised $6 million through a combination of pledges from wealthy friends, the public and $1 million from himself after the splashy telethon-style fundraiser he held in Iowa in January in place of the Fox debate.
But his campaign refused for months to disclose which charities had received the money, leading some news organizations and critics to question whether the money raised was less than he had said.
"It was very unfair that the press treated us so badly," Trump complained.
Trump hadn't appeared to want to keep the donations private when he presented a series of checks to veterans groups at campaign events in the weeks after the fundraiser.
On Jan. 30, just before the Iowa caucuses, he gave a $100,000 check to the Puppy Jake Foundation, which provides service dogs to wounded veterans. Representatives from the foundation, accompanies by several service dogs, accepted the check at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa, where Trump was being interviewed on stage by Jerry Falwell Jr.
The next day, in Council Bluffs, Trump presented another check, also for $100,000, to Partners for Patriots, which also provides service dogs to disabled veterans.
The check presentations trickled off after several days.
On Tuesday, about a dozen local New York veterans protested outside Trump Tower, holding signs such as "Vets vs. Hate."
"Veterans are a very diverse group of people. How dare he suggest we endorse his hateful rhetoric?" said Claude Copeland, 34, who said he had served in Iraq for the Army in 2003.
Said Perry O'Brien, also 34, who served in Afghanistan as a specialist in the Army: "Vets are not for sale. He is demeaning to POWs, Muslims, Mexicans and women who, unlike, Trump, actually sacrificed for their country."
But one of the veterans who joined Trump for his news conference, Al Baldasaro, a New Hampshire state representative, came outside to heckle the anti-Trump vets, calling them "political pawns."