“When Donald opened his club in Palm Beach called Mar-a-Lago, he insisted on accepting Jews and blacks even though other clubs in Palm Beach to this day discriminate against blacks and Jews. The old guard in Palm Beach was outraged that Donald would accept blacks and Jews so that’s the real Donald Trump that I know.”
That was author Ronald Kessler in a July 2015 interview with Newsmax, talking about Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s business practices when it came to building a golf course in the Deep South.
In the 1990s, Trump was running into a problem getting his golf course approved by the local town council in Palm Beach, which was imposing restrictions on his bid.
So Trump shot back with maximum effect. As reported by the Washington Post’s Mary Jordan and Rosalind Helderman on Nov. 14, 2015: “Trump undercut his adversaries with a searing attack, 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.”
The Washington Post report continues, “Trump’s lawyer sent every member of the town council copies of two classic movies about discrimination: ‘A Gentleman’s Agreement,’ about a journalist who pretends to be Jewish to expose anti-Semitism, and ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ about a white couple’s reaction to their daughter bringing home a black fiancé.”
Sometimes, in judging the character of an individual, it pays to see what people actually do when nobody’s really paying attention. When it came to segregation in the South at private, all-white country clubs, it might have been in Trump’s business interests to simply look the other way. Instead, Trump did the right thing and insisted on desegregation at his golf resort.
And he won.
Soon thereafter, the local restrictions were lifted and, today, the golf course is open and remains inclusive.
It remains a point of pride for Trump, who boasted about the golf resort in a 2015 interview, “Whether they love me or not, everyone agrees the greatest and most important place in Palm Beach is Mar-a-Lago. I took this ultimate place and made it incredible and opened it, essentially, to the people of Palm Beach. The fact that I owned it made it a lot easier to get along with the Palm Beach establishment.”
At the time in 1997, then-Anti-Defamation League President Abraham Foxman praised Trump for elevating the issue of discrimination at private clubs, telling the Wall Street Journal, “He put the light on Palm Beach. Not on the beauty and the glitter, but on its seamier side of discrimination. It has an impact.” Foxman credited Trump’s move with encouraging other clubs in Palm Beach to do the same as Mar-a-Lago in opening up.
That’s the real Donald Trump. The one who dealt with a real problem to do with discrimination on race and religion in Palm Beach long before he was ever seeking public office by confronting a local planning board over its exclusive policies, determined he would do things differently.
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