The sole black member of Donald Trump’s Cabinet insisted this week that Trump is not racist because he is liked by his minority employees and let wealthy Jewish and black people join his Mar-a-Lago club.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson on Friday told attendees at a summit on economic opportunity that he’d gotten to know Trump — who spent much of the 2016 campaign portraying Carson as a low-energy man with a “pathological” temper, a questionable religion, and no leadership ability — since joining his administration.
“Talking to the people who drive the cars and park the cars at Mar-a-Lago — they love him. The people who wash the dishes, because he’s kind and compassionate,” Carson said.
“When he bought Mar-a-Lago, he was the one who fought for Jews and blacks to be included in the clubs that were trying to exclude them,” he added. You know, people say he’s a racist. He is not a racist.”
Carson’s suggestion that Trump was a civil rights pioneer in the Palm Beach club scene is misleading at best. In reality, Trump fought not to integrate other clubs, but rather to renovate his own.
According to a 2015 Washington Post report, back in the 1990s, after Trump bought the Mar-a-Lago mansion, the Palm Beach town council attempted to impose restrictions on Trump’s property use, as he was trying to convert it into a private club and resort.
Trump pushed back against the council, the outlet noted, “claiming that local officials seemed to accept the established private clubs in town that had excluded Jews and blacks while imposing tough rules on his inclusive one.” After he accused the council of discrimination against him, they mostly backed off.
“He won in the court of public opinion,” Jack McDonald, a council member at the time, told the Post.
According to the outlet, McDonald later “went on to be mayor and to join Mar-a-Lago.”
Another former Palm Beach council member, Allen Wyett, told the Post that Trump’s decision to accept black and Jewish members was likely more a business strategy than anything else.
“Was he smart enough to realize that Palm Beach is about 40 percent Jewish and he was not going to attract the old guard anyway?” he asked.
As a candidate in 2015, he employed anti-Semitic stereotypes portraying Jewish Republican donors as money-grubbing people who are only focused on negotiations. Last year, he claimed Jews showed “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” by voting for Democrats, while suggesting American Jews were more loyal to Israel than the United States. He also famously praised neo-Nazis as “very fine people” in 2017.
Trump also spent several years pushing racist — and demonstrably false — birther conspiracy theories about Barack Obama, suggesting the first black president was not really an American. He has dismissed African nations as “shithole countries” and has frequently attacked women of color, recently telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to their home countries.
Since 2017, a Mar-a-Lago membership has cost $200,000, plus $14,000 in annual dues.