Posts Tagged ‘John R. Brinkley’


“I should think judging by his ostentation, his absence of good taste [that obviously] he was eaten with vanity and ambition and his only measure of success was in terms of dollars and influence. . . . It must be a terrible thing to have to keep telling the world how great you are and to want so badly to achieve what is really impossible. We have much to fear from these people, but in a sense, I think, they are tragic.”

–Zina Worley, quoted by Pope Brock in his highly entertaining nonfiction book, Charlatan

Worley was not referring to Donald Trump, but rather to “Dr.” John Brinkley, a quack who exploited and and oft-times mutilated and killed the desperate and gullible who came to him for help. Brinkley became a multi-millionaire through sale of grossly overpriced ineffective (e.g., colored water) and outright harmful patent medicines, and through unnecessary, harmful operations intended mostly to restore male “virility.” Those operations included the implanting of goat testicles in human scrotums.

John R. Brinkley

Brinkley’s similarities with Donald Trump are striking: both preyed on the gullible and desperate; both were fascist sympathizers; both constantly bragged about themselves; both lied incessantly; both claimed to represent and be the voice of the common man — Brinkley nearly won the governorship of Kansas in 1930 and 1932; both had vulgar taste and indulged in ostentatious displays of wealth; both sometimes stiffed those who did work for them; and the one was brought down by a dogged, principled investigator, and, one hopes, the other soon will be. (There are other similarities, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.)

The primary difference between the two men, other than working in different fields of fraud, was that Brinkley came from a very poor background and Trump was a trust-fund baby who received over $400 million from his slumlord dad.