Not Even Mar-a-Lago Is Safe: Trump Org Bows to Far-Left Demand to Cancel Conservative Event
On Monday, the Trump Organization canceled an ACT for America gala scheduled for November 7 at Mar-a-Lago, days after a liberal smear campaign launched by the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the event itself as a violation of the Constitution.
After the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, and New York Times ran stories uncritically citing the SPLC's accusation that ACT for America is a "hate group," the event was unceremoniously cancelled. Mar-a-Lago did not respond to PJ Media's request for comment.
"This is a perfect example of how Free Speech is on its last breath in this country," Brigitte Gabriel, founder and chairman of ACT for America, said in a press release. "The radical leftist smear machine like the SPLC, CAIR, and the fake news media will lie, twist the truth, and take words out of context in order to destroy those with whom they disagree."
"While we are disappointed in the decision made by the Trump Organization attorneys, we do not blame President Trump or the Trump family," Gabriel added. "ACT for America, with its over one million member base, will continue to stand with President Trump and support his fight for the soul of our country, and his fight to protect and preserve our freedoms. They are under assault like never before."
"We will not be silenced," she concluded.
The liberal assault began on Friday, when the SPLC published a report with the headline, "Anti-Muslim Hate Group to Hold Gala at Mar-a-Lago."
"An anti-Muslim hate group that claims to have close ties to the White House is hosting its annual gala at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, with tickets starting at $1,500," the SPLC breathlessly reported.
The article emphasized Gabriel's support for Trump and ACT for America's claims to have a "direct line" to the president through allies such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who spoke at one of the group's conferences in 2016. The SPLC noted that Trump "still owns and profits from Mar-a-Lago but has said he is not involved in the day-to-day operations."
The SPLC mentioned the 2018 conference at a Hyatt in Arlington, Va., and noted that Hyatt enacted a policy banning "hate groups" after facing far-left pressure for hosting ACT for America.
The SPLC did not defend its "hate group" accusation against ACT for America in that article, but it maintains a page arguing that ACT for America "pushes wild anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, denigrates American Muslims and deliberately conflates mainstream and radical Islam."
On the contrary, the organization has worked with reformist Muslims like M. Zuhdi Jasser and Mohamad Tawhidi in opposing radical Islam and radical Islamic terrorism. ACT for America loudly condemned the horrific mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.
As for the SPLC, it faced a devastating racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal. A former employee went public about how its "hate group" accusations are a fundraising scheme meant to destroy the far-left group's political opponents. The "hate" monitor has not condemned antifa or Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that enflames anti-Semitism on college campuses.
On Saturday, CAIR — an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism funding case — sent out a press release condemning the ACT for America event, citing the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League, which has also condemned the group as a "hate group."
"It is totally inappropriate that an Islamophobic hate group would be in effect funneling money to the president of the United States by holding an event in one of his properties," CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement. "This is a group that has been associated with Islamophobia in the worst form for many years and has also been associated with white supremacists and racist groups."
Hooper argued that "the president’s club seemingly agreeing to host the event suggests Trump 'endorses' the group’s ideology — and reveals how Trump’s business empire, held alongside his presidential office, opens up a pathway for undue influence and corruption." He called the event "a win-win for bigotry."
"Anti-Muslim group to host fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago," ran the Palm Beach Post headline.
"Anti-Muslim extremist group says it will host $1,500-a-plate gala at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago," the Miami Herald headline read.
"Anti-Muslim Group ACT for America to Host Gala at Mar-a-Lago," The New York Times headline ran.
In an interview with the Times, Hooper went so far as to accuse ACT for America and Mar-a-Lago of violating the Constitution by holding the fundraiser.
"I don’t think it should occur," Hooper said of the event. "It’s really a violation of the U.S. Constitution to funnel funds from a hate group directly to the president and his business," he said, ostensibly referring to the emoluments clauses of the Constitution.
This accusation is frankly absurd. The Foreign Emoluments Clause prohibits the president (and all other persons "holding an Office of Profit or Trust" in the U.S. government) from accepting "any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State." The Domestic Emoluments Clause prohibits Congress from raising or lowering the president's pay during the period the president is in office, and prevents the president from receiving "any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them."
ACT for America is not a foreign government. It is not a state government. Contrary to the SPLC and the ADL, it is not a hate group, either. American nonprofit organizations recognized by the IRS — as ACT for America is — are not prohibited from indirectly giving the president money by hosting events at Mar-a-Lago. The Constitution is silent on that issue, even if CAIR wants to twist the law beyond recognition in order to tar its political opponents.
Michelle Malkin, who was scheduled to speak at the gala, announced on Twitter that she "will not be deterred."
"There is a chilling 'cancel culture' campaign being waged against patriotic journalists & activists... and apparently, not even Mar A Lago is a safe space. Here's the real problem: The [SPLC] & [CAIR] seek to silence & eliminate political opponents by redefining criticism of their agenda & tactics as 'hate,'" she explained. "These character assassins exploit sympathetic & lazy journalists, like those at the [Miami Herald] who targeted [ACT for America], [Brigitte Gabriel] & me after receiving an SPLC alert over the weekend about our event."
"Mindless dissemination of false & defamatory labels must end, & I will do everything in my power to stop it--just as many of my friends & allies suing SPLC & CAIR have. I am a lover, not a hater, of my country," Malkin concluded.
Many people wrongly smeared by the SPLC have filed defamation lawsuits against the group. The SPLC paid $3.375 million to settle with Maajid Nawaz, an anti-terror activist whom it had smeared as an "anti-Muslim extremist." Craig Nelsen, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM), Baltimore lawyer Glen Keith Allen, and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes have also sued the far-left group. While the CIS and DJKM lawsuits have been struck down, appeals are expected. Nelsen's lawsuit has entered the potentially devastating discovery phase, which could reveal the SPLC's secrets.
The SPLC and CAIR have repeatedly attacked ACT for America this year. When a local activist set up a poster connecting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to the 9/11 attacks, the national chapter of ACT for America condemned the poster and said it never would have approved it, but the SPLC continued to attack the organization for the display. When a Wilkes-Barre, Pa., church was set to host an ACT for America event, the SPLC and CAIR used personal attacks to pressure the local chapter president to resign.
In March, Eventbrite booted ACT for America from its platform, echoing the SPLC in accusing the group of promoting "hate." In May, CAIR launched a program to pressure charities into blacklisting conservative organizations it accused of Islamophobic hate, including ACT for America.
The pressure campaign against Mar-a-Lago was par for the course. It is surprising, however, that the Trump-owned hotel caved to liberal pressure on this issue, especially after the SPLC's recent scandal.
Conservatives need to pressure Mar-a-Lago, Hyatt, and Eventbrite to reverse course. The left should not be able to blacklist conservative groups for their beliefs. Enough is enough.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.