A “he said, they said” controversy has erupted over what the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says was a scheduled campaign event by Donald Trump to appear at a candidate forum this coming Thursday.
The USHCC says Trump has backed out of the event. Trump says he never agreed to appear. Meanwhile, the two sides trade accusations about lying and being double crossed.
Just the thing to improve The Donald’s relations with Hispanics.
The USHCC promoted the event, sold tickets to it, and even told Politico two days ago how they were going to ambush Trump during the Q&A:
“We’re not going to go easy on him. A lot of people think it’s just going to be this positive thing,” said the group’s communications director, Ammar Campa-Najjar, who went on to share some choice words about the businessman, his ideas and his candidacy. They included “sad,” “absurd” and “broken.”
“I’ve been tight-lipped for a while, but I’ve got to speak up now,” said Campa-Najjar. “It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad that this man is leading in the polls and that this is his idea for a fiscally responsible, fair and feasible plan for dealing with immigrants.”
Citing its $400 billion price tag, Campa-Najjar said Trump’s immigration plan is a fiscal loser. He added, “The deporting thing is so absurd that no one can get behind it and he needs to explain how that’s going to work.”
Campa-Najjar also dismissed the Trump campaign’s claims that Trump already enjoys support among many Hispanics and his belief that he will win over many others.
“When we talk to them, they give the impression they’re doing so well with Hispanics: ‘Oh Hispanics love me,’ and I think that’s, at best, out of touch with reality,” he said.
But Trump told CNN he had no knowledge of the invite:
“I never agreed to do an event. This is the first time I’m hearing about this. I mean, I never agreed,” the Republican presidential front-runner said in a phone interview. “He wanted me to do an event because he probably can’t sell tickets without me. Why would anybody do an event when he’s a negative person?”
Trump added that he plans to be in Las Vegas on Oct. 8 for a campaign rally.
But the Hispanic Chamber is accusing Trump of abruptly pulling out of the event because of concerns that he might be criticized.
“Clearly, the decision to withdraw from the Q&A was motivated out of fear,” said Javier Palomarez, the CEO of the Hispanic Chamber. “This further disqualifies him as a serious candidate in the eyes of the Hispanic community.”
The clash with the Hispanic Chamber comes as the Hispanic community continues to express discomfort and outrage at some of Trump’s statements about immigration. At the launch of his White House campaign, Trump touched off a firestorm by remarking that some Mexicans entering the country illegally are “rapists” and “criminals.” Hispanic leaders have called on the candidate to alter his tone.
Palomarez met with Trump on Sept. 1 at Trump Tower in New York. The two discussed politically sensitive issues like immigration reform and the Republican presidential front-runner’s rhetoric about the Hispanic community. Trump’s heated rhetoric about immigration and Hispanics has drawn wide condemnation for being harsh and racially charged.
And it was at that meeting that Palomarez says Trump personally committed to participate in the Q&A forum this month. In the room when the agreement was made were Hope Hicks, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, and Michael Cohen, an adviser and attorney for Trump, according to Palomarez.
The Hispanic Chamber had no intention of playing fair with Trump and were going to try to humiliate him — a real “Chief Brody slap” moment. No doubt, Trump advisors read that Politico article and realized what they were in for and tried to change the rules of the Q&A session with the USHCC:
USHCC spokesman Ammar Campa-Najjar said Friday Trump withdrew his participation in the session that has featured three other presidential candidates from both parties and will host a fourth on Tuesday, because Trump was concerned he would be “put on trial” and was unwilling to abide by terms and conditions of the candidate series.
Michael Cohen, an attorney and adviser to Trump, was not immediately available for comment when contacted by NBC News.
In a statement, the chamber said it refused to change the format of the Q&A session, show favoritism, exclude any issues or topics or “grant immunity from objective scrutiny of his policies.”
The chamber said Trump would not have been treated differently than other candidates that have done the sessions or spoken to the chamber’s members.
I call bullcrap on that. Of course Trump was going to be treated differently. They were angling to pull him down and Trump, who might have realized this before he committed to the event, is now in damage control trying to put out the fire.
Then there’s the little matter of his lies to CNN. “This is the first time I’m hearing about this. I mean, I never agreed,” is about as brazen a lie as Obama has ever told. The fact is, the USHCC would not have been promoting the event so heavily unless they believed they had an ironclad commitment from Trump to appear. To claim otherwise is embarrassing.