By Patrick Colliano
In a tweet dated May 16, 2016, Paul Joseph Watson of InfoWars shared this meme on Twitter.
I wouldn’t describe Paul Joseph Watson as a ‘shoot first; ask questions later’ type. He is more of a ‘shoot first; don’t ask questions at all’ type. Even a simple Google search would have exposed the falsity of this statement.
Enter: The Donald
The profound ignorance behind the assertion that Trump had never been accused of racism until recently is made stark when we realize that it was, in fact, an accusation of racism that placed Trump in the public eye in the first place.
On October 16, 1973, The New York Times ran an article on the front page under the headline “Major Landlord Accused of Antiblack Bias in City.”
According to the article, “the Department of Justice, charging discrimination against blacks in apartment rentals, brought suit in Federal Court in Brooklyn yesterday against the Trump Management Corporation.” The suit alleged that Trump Management was violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in the operation of 39 buildings.
The president of Trump Management, the then-27-year-old Donald J. Trump, vehemently denied the charges, calling them “absolutely ridiculous.”
Apparently, this wasn’t the first time Trump had been accused of discriminatory practices in apartment rentals, either. “There have been a number of local actions against us, and we’ve won them all. We were charged with discrimination, and we proved in court that we did not discriminate,” said Trump.
While Trump seemed confident that he would once again prevail, the Department of Justice came prepared. Two undercover testers had separately visited one of Trump’s Brooklyn rental properties, ostensibly to rent an apartment.
The first tester, a black woman, was told nothing was available. The second, a white woman, was allowed to choose between two apartments.
Moreover, the Department of Justice also had interviews with Trump employees which revealed that they were directed to employ blatantly discriminatory policies.
For example, the rental applications from minorities were marked with coded information, such as “No. 9” or “C” for “colored.” According to the allegations in the suit, the minority prospective renters were directed away from buildings with mostly white tenants.
Despite the suit seeking only injunctive relief prohibiting discriminatory practices, Trump chose to fight back. Retaining the services of infamous Joe McCarthy lickspittle Roy Cohn, Trump filed a countersuit against the Department of Justice demanding 100 million dollars in punitive damages.
The countersuit was thrown out a month later by a Federal Judge, who called it a waste of “time and paper,” and Trump eventually settled, 20 months after the suit had begun, though he was careful to point out that his decision to settle was not an admission of guilt.
Trump further stated that he was satisfied, as the settlement did not “compel the Trump organisation to accept persons on welfare as tenants unless as qualified as any other tenant.“
But despite the settlement, the issue was not buried yet. In 1978, the Federal Government filed a motion for supplemental relief, alleging that Trump was not complying with the terms of the 1975 settlement. Curiously, the outcome of this motion remains unknown.
In light of this incident, it is absolutely preposterous to claim that Trump had never been accused of racism until he ran against Democrats; it was an accusation from the Federal Government itself that heralded Trump’s entrance into the limelight. Nor would this be the last time that this accusation would get him in trouble with the law.
The fine, one of the highest ever from the Division of Gaming Enforcement, was apparently imposed over allegations that management was accommodating the prejudices of a certain high-rolling patron of the casino by removing black card-dealers from their tables. The fine was appealed, but a New Jersey appellate court upheld the penalty.
Of course, some might question whether Trump can be fairly accused of being racist over the actions of his management. None of my sources indicate whether Trump even knew what the management of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino were doing. But for those who question whether Trump was approving of such actions, you might ask the opinion of a couple of Trump’s former employees.
Kip Brown, a black man who worked at Trump’s Castle stripping and waxing the floors, told The New Yorker, “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor. It was the eighties, I was a teen-ager, but I remember it: they put us all in the back.”
John R. O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, published a book called “Trumped!” in 1991. In this book, O’Donnell recounts a dinner conversation with Trump.
When the discussion turned to the Plaza’s black financial executive, Trump said: “And isn’t it funny? I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day … I think the guy is lazy and it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.”
Suggesting that “laziness is a trait in blacks” is a textbook example of a racist statement. While it may be impossible to prove these allegations, Watson’s meme doesn’t claim that Trump is no racist, only that Trump had never been accused of it.
The Central Park Five
It might be easy to dismiss the comments of former employees as mere rumor, possibly motivated out of vindictiveness, other instances in Trump’s public life are could not be so casually ignored. One such instance was the protests against Trump that occurred in 2002, during which, according to The New York Times, Trump was called a racist.
To understand where this accusation came from, it is necessary to revisit a very disturbing incident that happened late one evening on May 19, 1989. That night, shortly between 9:40 and 9:50 PM, 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili was taking her evening jog along her usual path in Central Park when she was suddenly and viciously attacked. Meili was raped, sodomized and beaten so severely, she was left in a coma with her survival in serious doubt.
Five youths (four black and one Hispanic), aged 14-16, were arrested and charged. While being questioned (without the benefit of their parents present), they confessed to the crime, with four of the confessions captured on videotape. As this incident (along with other incidents in the Park that night) gained publicity and the victim remained comatose, Donald Trump took out a 600-word full page ad in four New York newspapers, calling for the death penalty and bitterly denouncing the accused youths (now known as “The Central Park Five”) as “muggers and murderers.”
The boys were tried, convicted, and sentenced. Four of the five youths appealed, but their convictions were upheld.
Then in 2002, 13 years later, an inmate named Matias Reyes, already serving a life sentence for other crimes, confessed to the attack on Meili and testified that he had acted alone with none “Central Park Five” present.
The evidence, including semen found on the victim’s sock which matched Reyes’ DNA, confirmed his guilt. Lawyers for the “Central Park Five” raised doubts about the confessions and the way the evidence had been presented in court.
While the lead attorney in an investigative team found it “impossible to believe that they [the “Central Park Five”] weren’t there at all, because they knew too much,” the boys were eventually exonerated and their convictions vacated.
Protests erupted, denouncing Trump for his involvement in producing the ads, accusing him of “inflaming passions and perhaps tainting the defendants’ future jurors,” according to The New York Times. “Some called him a racist.” Protesters demanded an apology, but Trump refused, which came as no surprise to one of the protesters, writer Carol Taylor. “Of course he won’t apologize, because he’s a rich white colorist male who is wallowing in the unearned privilege of his white skin color.”
Whether Trump can fairly be accused of racism over this incident is debatable. While the ad that Trump took out in four newspapers was certainly harsh in its condemnation of the five youths, the ad contained no allusion to their races. And if the ad itself is so racist, where were these accusations when Trump first took out the ad, at a time when virtually everyone was convinced of the boys’ guilt?
But whether the accusations of Trump’s racism are justified in the wake of this incident is not the point. Paul Joseph Watson’s claim was only that Trump had never once been accused of being racist until he ran for office against Democrats. Obviously, in the wake of this incident, that is not the case.
Nor would this be the last time in Trump’s career that he would face this accusation. There is, at least, one other more recent example. And that a devout conspiracy theorist like Paul Joseph Watson could forget this is remarkable.
On March 3, 2011, Donald Trump made a guest appearance on The View. Trump had recently inserted himself into the birther movement, a conspiracy theory that began in 2008.
Adherents of birtherism claim that Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore ineligible to serve as its President. Moreover, they allege that President Obama is aware of and deliberately concealing his lack of eligibility. When the panelists on The View started to ask Trump about his involvement, questions about his motives would soon follow. “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate?” Trump asked complainingly.
Panelist Whoopi Goldberg was noticeably agitated, calling the soi-disant controversy “the biggest pile of dog mess I’ve heard in ages.” She then asked pointedly, “It’s not because he’s black, is it?”
“Has nothing to do with it,” Trump insisted.
“Because I’ve never heard of any white President asked to show the birth certificate,” said Goldberg.
Goldberg is correct. While she may have not directly called Trump a racist, the implication could not be plainer. In March of 2016, as she scathingly criticised Ben Carson for his support of Trump, she would not be so reluctant to use the word.
But Trump is incorrect on one key point: Obama had already produced a birth certificate in 2008 during his campaign. Contrary to the charges levelled by the birthers, including Trump (who claims to have “read it very carefully”), Obama’s Certification of Live Birth is a valid birth certificate.
It bears the raised seal of the state of Hawaii, as proven by FactCheck.org, and, contrary to Trump’s claims, it also has a certificate number, and the stamped signature of Alvin T. Onaka, Registrar of Vital Statistics for the State of Hawaii.
When Obama produced his birth certificate in 2008, he had established his place of birth was Hawaii. But instead of conceding the point, birthers conducted a vigorous (and successful) campaign of disinformation.
With Goebbels-like repetition and having a willing patsy in Donald Trump, the birthers managed to convince the more gullible members of the public at large that the Certification of Live Birth was inadequate to prove Obama was, in fact, born in Hawaii, and that only a long-form birth certificate would suffice.
Regrettably, the birthers’ campaign of lies was successful, and Obama requested two certified copies of a long-form birth certificate, which he released on April 27, 2011.
Show Us Yer Papers, Boy!
Following the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate, Trump held a self-congratulatory press conference. It was then that Trump would make certain ill-considered remarks that would raise questions as to his motives.
“Today, I am very proud of myself,” he began. “Because I’ve accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish. I was just informed while on the helicopter that our President has finally released a birth certificate.”
Despite Trump’s unrestrained pride in his accomplishment, he also expressed certain reservations about accepting the long form at face value. “I’d want to look at it, but I hope it’s true,” Trump said. “We have to look at it, we have to see ‘Is it real?’” Then, with feigned sincerity, Trump added, “I hope it checks out beautifully.”
With these comments, which more closely resemble accusations than genuine concerns, Trump had given his fellow birthers their next game plan: claim that the birth certificate was a fake and that Obama released a forged document. The unsubtle hints were picked up, and Trump’s fellow birthers had their instructions. They would prove to be the most compliant of lackeys.
But despite his unrestrained pleasure at the release of Obama’s birth certificate, Trump was not satisfied. He then raised questions regarding Obama’s academic records, and certain journalists would see something very ugly behind those questions.
“The word is, according to what I’ve read, that he was a terrible student when he went to Occidental,” Trump continued.
“He then gets to Columbia. He then gets to Harvard. I heard at Columbia, he wasn’t a very good student. How do you get into Harvard if you’re not a good student? Now, maybe that’s right or maybe that’s wrong, but I don’t know why he doesn’t release his records. Why doesn’t he release his Occidental records? The word is, he wasn’t a good student, and he ended up getting into Columbia and Harvard.”
The media did not miss the insinuation.
In CBS Evening News, Face The Nation anchor Bob Schieffer dismissed Trump’s ruminations as “just code that he [Obama] got into law school because he’s black,” and further called it an “ugly strain of racism that’s running through this whole thing.”
Trump was not pleased when he learned of Schieffer’s comments. “That is a terrible statement for a newscaster to make,” Trump said. “I am the last person that such a thing should be said about.”
“The last person”? Is this to say that out of the some seven billion people on this planet, Donald Trump is the very last person that should be accused of racism?
Actually, yes. That’s exactly what he meant.
“When it comes to racism and racists, I am the least racist person there is. And I think most people that know me would tell you that. I am the least racist. I’ve had great relationships. In fact, Randal Pinkett won on The Apprentice a little while ago, a couple years ago, and Randal’s been outstanding in every way. So I am the least racist person.”
In her op-ed piece for TheGrio, “Why Obama shouldn’t have had to ‘show his papers’,” Goldie Taylor, editor-at-large of The Daily Beast, also picked up on the unsettling subtext in Trump’s questions as to how Obama could have gotten into Columbia and Harvard when, according to Trump’s unnamed sources, he was “a terrible student.”
Taylor began her article with a poignant account of how, in 1899, her great-great-grandfather at age 19, despite living in post-Civil War America when the blacks were supposedly free citizens, was thrown in jail where he was beaten and bloodied because he was unable to produce his identification papers.
The bitter irony of the first African-American president now being compelled to produce a birth certificate for public inspection to prove his natural-born citizenship, something no sitting President or presidential candidate has ever had to do, was not lost on her.
Taylor then addressed the insinuation behind Trump’s question as to how a supposedly poor student like Obama could have gotten into Harvard:
“The implication is that Barack Obama was the beneficiary of affirmative action and took the place of a more qualified white student. Apparently, graduating magna cum laude from the nation’s most prestigious law school and being named editor of the Harvard Law Review — the institution’s highest student honor — is not enough for him.
“For guys like Trump, it never is.”
Taylor had more to say about the birther movement itself, which, of course, included Donald Trump:
“When they tell you this isn’t racial, don’t believe them. This controversy was constructed solely as a way to de-legitimize the presidency of a black man. Those who question the location of Barack Obama’s birth are the very same people who would pack up and move out of the neighborhood if someone like me moved in next door.
“When they say they want to take their country back, they mean from us.”
Only the most dishonest could pretend not to see the plain suggestion that racism was motivating Trump’s misguided and misinformed actions. Short of actually using the word, the accusation could not be more direct.
But even if some would try to argue that Trump was not being accused of racism, the thinly-veiled implications were not lost on Trump himself, who obviously felt the need to continue to defend himself from the charge, often with cringe-inducing results. One memorable instance occurred on April 14th, 2011: “I have a great relationship with the blacks,” Trump told Albany’s Talk Radio. “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.“
Somehow, I get the impression that if Trump were ever confronted with that statement, he’d be genuinely perplexed. “Well, what’s wrong with that?” he might ask.
Further, in 2012, referring to his handpicked winner of Celebrity Apprentice – Trump asked rhetorically, “How can I be a racist? I just picked Arsenio Hall.”
But regardless of what Trump seems to think is incontestable proof of his status as a non-racist, the accusation has followed him for decades, contrary to the claims of Paul Joseph Watson, who would have us believe that the racist accusation began only recently, and only when he decided to run against Democrats.
A second-season African-American contestant on The Apprentice, Kevin Allen, whom Trump had ordered to go sell chocolate bars outside a subway station, was one of four remaining contestants when Trump finally fired him.
Trump employed an interesting standard to rationalise this dismissal: Allen was simply too educated.
“You’re an unbelievably talented guy in terms of education, and you haven’t done anything.At some point you have to say that’s enough,” said Trump to Allen.
So, being educated is a liability now? Allen seems to think it’s only the educated of a particular race that Trump has a problem with. “Apparently he doesn’t like educated African-Americans very much.“
Does anyone need help understanding what Allen is implying?
Regardless of the strength of these accusations, the point of this article, again, is not to prove that Trump is a racist, but to point out that the accusation has existed long before he decided to run for President against the Democrats.
Accusations of racism not only followed Trump throughout his public life, they precipitated Trump’s entrance into it. For Watson to suggest that this only just started as he’s running for President is either breathtakingly ignorant or breathtakingly dishonest.