NY Post Flubbed Story That Fueled Melania Trump Immigration Questions

Melania Trump attends the TIME 100 Gala, celebrating the 100 most influential people in the world, at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
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Risqué photographic evidence that cast doubt on Melania Trump’s account of immigrating to the United States was based on a faulty report, according to the French photographer who shot the nude pics. Photos taken of Trump in Manhattan in the mid-1990s for the French magazine Max were printed in a February 1997 issue of the magazine, not the January 1996 issue, as the New York Post reported in July, the photographer confirmed to TPM Wednesday.

The dates of the issue and the photoshoot were important, because they were used as evidence that Trump was living and working in the United States as early as 1995, which contradicted her account of when she immigrated to America.

Trump on Wednesday tweeted a letter from New York immigration attorney Michael J. Wildes in which he said that the reports of her working in the United States before she had been granted the proper work visa were “not supported by the facts.” Wildes in the letter claimed that he has reviewed her “relevant immigration paperwork.”

“Because Mrs. Trump did not enter the United States until August 27, 1996, the allegation that she participated in a photo shoot in 1995 is not only untrue, it’s impossible,” Wildes said. “In reality, through an interview with Mrs. Trump, we ascertained that the photo shoot in question did not occur until after she was admitted to the United States in H1-B visa status in October 1996.”

In an August report raising questions about Trump’s account of how she immigrated into the United States, Politico cited the New York Post story on the Max Magazine photos to point out that if she did the photo shoot in Manhattan in 1995, it contradicted her claims that she came to New York in 1996. That discrepancy was raised again Wednesday with the release of the Trump immigration attorney’s letter. (The Politico report also cites a biography by Slovenian journalists as placing Trump in New York in 1995.)

However, the issue of Max Magazine in which Trump’s photos appeared had Cindy Crawford on the cover, the Post said. Cindy Crawford appeared on the cover of the February 1997 issue of Max, while the cover of December 1995/January 1996 issue did not feature her. While photos published in January 1996 would have almost certainly have been shot in 1995, photos published a year later lend credence to Melania Trump’s attorney’s account.

Jarl Ale de Basseville, the photographer who shot the Trump photos for Max, told TPM via email that the Post “made a mistake” in saying the photos appeared in the January 1996 issue and confirmed that the photos ran in the February 1997 issue. He could not, however, recall when the photo shoot in question took place, so Wildes’ claim that the shoot took place after Trump received her visa in October 1996 could not be independently confirmed.

Wildes did not respond to TPM’s request to provide the documents he reviewed to corroborate his account of Trump’s immigration history. The author of the New York Post story also did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Update: A representative for the New York Post responded to TPM’s inquiry and said the outlet had corrected the story. “Photographer Alé de Basse­ville told The Post on Wednesday that he misspoke, and the photo session actually took place in 1996 in Manhattan, and appeared in a 1997 issue of the magazine,” the correction said.

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