August 1, 2015 10:00 pm -


The New York Times runs down the times Donald Trump has used race when it benefited his bottom line.

Under a dark photograph showing hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia, the newspaper advertisement warned in dire terms that violent criminals were coming to town. “Are these the new neighbors we want?” the paid message asked. “The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.”

The ad, part of an advocacy campaign meant to stop a casino from being built in New York’s Catskill region, drew an indignant response from the tribe, which called it a naked appeal to racism. The incendiary ads, which ran in upstate newspapers in February 2000, were the work of the New York Institute for Law and Society, an opaque interest group that described itself as opposed to casino gambling.

It was only later that the man who bankrolled the ads identified himself: Donald J. Trump…

Later, during negotiations with the town of Palm Beach, Fla., his associates threatened through the media to sell a beachfront estate owned by Mr. Trump to the Unification Church, a Christian sect founded in South Korea and known for the practice of holding mass weddings…

Mr. Trump said it was “not my intention” to speak in racially provocative terms, but expressed little interest in softening his language. “It’s very time-consuming to be politically correct,” he said, “and I don’t like wasting a lot of time.”…

He has used divisive rhetoric to advance his business interests: His drive against the St. Regis Mohawks was intended to protect his investments in Atlantic City at the time, by blocking casino development in a competing market. Mr. Trump, who stood by the content of the newspaper and television ads he paid for, said he had made a “tremendous amount of money in Atlantic City” and did not want to see gamblers migrating elsewhere.

“I wasn’t knocking the Mohawks; I was knocking their record,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s not because they’re Mohawks. That’s because their record is bad and was proved to be bad at the time.”

The ads shocked local tribal leaders, who took out their own newspaper ad in response to denounce the “racist and inflammatory rhetoric of this sham Institute.”

“How dare they smear a nation and brand us all as criminals,” the ad said…

Rowena General, who was chief of staff for the St. Regis Mohawks in 2000, said Mr. Trump’s ad campaign was a cynical attempt to use fear about race and crime to protect his business investments. The tenor of his presidential campaign, she said, was “not surprising at all, considering our experience with him.”

Eleven years earlier, Mr. Trump had financed what was perhaps an even more charged advertisement days after the brutal assault on the jogger in Central Park. The ad, in the form of an open letter from Mr. Trump, was topped with two sentences that blared: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”

Mr. Trump said that the ad was motivated purely by his support for reinstituting the death penalty and that it did not have a racial component. He said he remained a strong proponent of capital punishment and called it a necessary deterrent to violent crime.

“This had nothing to do with race,” he said. “I have always been a big believer, and continue to be, of the death penalty for horrendous crime.”

He added that he had no regrets about the ad, though he noted that because the victim of the assault had survived, the death penalty would not have been appropriate.

New York City last year settled a lawsuit brought by the five defendants for $41 million, without acknowledging wrongdoing.



D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.