A handful of protesters gathered outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue this morning to protest the Republican nominee’s politically motivated concern for veterans, and his divisive rhetoric. Meanwhile, Donald Trump fielded questions from a charged press gallery, whom he repeatedly insulted, including calling an ABC journalist “a sleaze.”
“I’m protesting the hate speech he stands for,” said Peter Bronson, an 81-year-old Korean War veteran who served on a French air base in Morocco, to The National Memo. “We all served with Muslims. Most of us served in the Middle East.”
“I married a woman from Morocco and I feel that our enemies aren’t Muslims. This isn’t a religious war,” he said.
The veterans were part of the “Vets VS Hate” movement, a group of military veterans opposed to Trump’s hate speech. While there were only a handful of veterans out in front of Trump Tower, today’s protest was the latest in a series by veterans opposed to the most overly militaristic presidential candidate of the 2016 race.
“I think for many of us, its outrageous that Trump would malign Muslims, women, Latinos, many of whom have donned the uniform and served their country, unlike Mr. Trump,” said Perry O’Brien, who served in the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. “It’s very clear that Donald Trump is not cut from the same moral fabric of the veterans he’s trying to use to advance his own agenda.”
Inside Trump Tower, there was little of the same grounded, rational thinking taking place. In an unusually antagonistic — even for him — press conference, Trump made it clear he was unhappy that the media had called him out on the donations he promised to veterans. “The money has all been sent. I wanted to keep it private,” said the man who basked in the attention he received when he decided to skip the Republican debate in Iowa for his veterans fundraising event, “because I don’t think its anybody’s business if I want to send money to the vets.”
“I will say the press should be ashamed of themselves. And on behalf of the vets, the press should be ashamed of themselves,” he said, trying to flip the script. “Instead of being like ‘Thank you very much Mr. Trump,’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone is saying ‘Who got it? Who got it? Who got it?’ and you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”
Trump read from a list of organizations who had received money from him, after weeks of intense pressure by the media following reports that he had neither raised nor handed out the amounts he had claimed. The updated list consists of 40 organizations, rather than the 22 he had originally announced during the January fundraiser
“I have to say this, I raised close to $6 million. It’ll probably be over that amount when its all said and done. But as of this moment it is $5.6 million,” he said.
“It went up from $1 million to $2 million to $3 million and it now ends up to be almost $6 million,” he said.
He also accused the veterans protesting outside the tower of being sent there by Hillary Clinton, yet in interviews with them, not one protestor mentioned the Democratic frontrunner.
Following a general attack on the press, Trump specifically went after ABC News reporter Tom Llamas, who previously asked Trump if he had a problem with being honest.
“What I don’t want is when I raise millions of dollars, have people say– like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC, he’s a sleaze in my book,” said Trump.
“Why am I a sleaze?” said Llamas from the audience.
“You’re a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well,” Trump responded.
However, the facts are that the Trump campaign attempted to bury the veterans fundraiser publicity stunt as soon as the debate in Des Moines wrapped up. The fact is that $5.6 million is not $6 million, and that the press had every right, especially given the lack of transparency surrounding the donations and their disbursement to the 24 veterans organizations the proceeds were promised to, to call Trump to account and ask where those millions went. The latest release by the Trump campaign shows nearly double the number of veterans organizations and a $400,000 shortfall in the amount claimed to have been raised. But Trump saved his best line for last.
“I find the press to be dishonest, I find the political press to be very dishonest,” said Trump, after which he ended the press conference. If there was ever a preview of the contempt with which a Trump administration would view the press, it manifested itself in today’s press conference.