Donald Trump was taken to task by critics for asking NBC town hall host Savannah Guthrie if she had ever heard of being “underlevered,” which critics pointed out was not a real term.
The exchange took place during Thursday’s live town hall event on NBC, when she was pressing Trump on a report that he had paid no federal income tax for 10 of the last 15 years leading up to his election and paid just $750 in 2016 and again in 2017. The report also claimed he was more than $400 million in debt, with payment coming due.
In response, Trump repeatedly claimed he was very “underlevered,” with many believing he meant to say “under leveraged.” As Investopedia noted, “unlevered” is a financial term referring to a free cash flow of money that a business has before paying its financial obligations. The term “under leveraged” refers to a company with little debt related to its assets.
Many critics seized on the president for what appeared to be a condescending response while still misusing the phrase.
“Trump is very good with money. He’s extremely under-levered. You’ve heard of levered right? He knows about levering,” tweeted comedian and Trump critic Sarah Cooper.
does he keep saying “under levered” when he’s trying to say “under leveraged”
— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) October 16, 2020
I am, um, not a real estate developer but I always thought the term was "under-leveraged" not "under-levered."
— Niall Stanage (@NiallStanage) October 16, 2020
Some called out Guthrie for not correcting him on the spot.
“The greatest whiff in the history of broadcasting just occurred,” Mike Pesca tweeted, a journalist and NPR contributor. “Trump said ‘have you ever heard of being under levered?’ And Guthrie failed to say ‘no. But I have heard of being under leveraged’. Too bad.”
Trump also did not say whether he would release his tax returns to prove his assertion of having relatively little debt, saying it would be unwise to do so while he was still under audit by the IRS.
The broadcast was controversial even before it began. The second presidential debate had initially been scheduled for Thursday, but the president backed out after the commission that sets the schedule for debates announced it would be moved to a virtual event.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden then scheduled a town hall on ABC. Trump then announced he would be having one on NBC taking place at the same time. Many called on the network to reschedule the event so that it would not be broadcast opposite the already-scheduled one featuring Biden.
"I'm very underlevered.*" – @realDonaldTrump
— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 16, 2020
As The Inquisitr reported, Trump also laid into the network in the hours before the broadcast, calling NBC News “fake” and referring to parent company Comcast as “Concast” during a campaign rally in North Carolina earlier in the day.