As much as former United States President Donald Trump liked to brag about his alleged high intelligence quotient — to the point that CNN once tallied it up — it is important to note that he did not generate one highly-flattering graphic promoting it as fact.
The meme, attributed to “Gary Forbes,” dates back to 2015. It reads:
Donald Trump is a graduate from the prestigious Wharton School of Finance at the University of PA – considered to be one of the finest business schools in the world. He earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in economics and anthropology. Based on Wharton’s admission standards and his known SAT scores, Trump’s [estimated] IQ exceeds 156. The standard description of this level of intelligence is “Genius — Exceptional intellectual ability and capable of looking beyond known facts.” That percentile means Trump is more intelligent than 99.99% of the people on planet Earth. Brave. Caring. Accomplished. Experienced — AND a Genius in Economics! Isn’t this exactly what we need in our President?
“Forbes” is also credited with publishing a made-up op-ed claiming that retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Chuck Yeager endorsed Trump’s presidential campaign. With that in mind, several of the claims made in the meme have also failed to materialize years later.
It is true that Trump attended the Wharton School. However, in July 2020, his niece Mary Trump claimed in a book that he paid someone else to take tests for him. According to the book, Trump had been relying on his sister Maryanne to do his homework for him and was growing concerned that his low grade point average would doom his chances to get into the school:
To hedge his bets he enlisted Joe Shapiro, a smart kid with a reputation for being a good test taker, to take his SATs for him. That was much easier to pull off in the days before photo IDs and computerized records. Donald, who never lacked for funds, paid his buddy well.
Mary Trump’s account also corroborated journalist Gwenda Blair’s own book on Trump’s family, which attributed Donald Trump’s transfer to the Wharton School from Fordham University less to scholastic aptitude (his grades were described as “respectable”) and more to an interview with a “friendly” admissions officer who went to high school with Donald’s older brother.
In February 2019, a spokesperson for Fordham confirmed in a statement that prior to the 2016 presidential election, the university had been threatened by phone and via letter that Trump’s team would “take action against the university if we did, in fact, release Mr. Trump’s records.”
A former attorney for Trump, Michael Cohen, revealed himself as the source of the letter as part of his testimony that same month to the House Oversight Committee. Cohen provided the committee with a copy of the letter, which he said he sent on orders from Trump:
“I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant, but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores,” Cohen said at the time.
To date, Trump has yet to release either his SAT or IQ scores, so any claims that he was the “smartest president ever” are unprovable, at best. According to a 2006 study by psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, however, which “applied a statistical algorithm to reams of presidential biographies, surveys, polls and other historical sources,” the president best fitting that description was John Quincy Adams.
Update 8/25/2022, 5:00 p.m.: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. – ag