3 charities cancel Mar-a-Lago events amid Trump backlash
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s comments about the white nationalist rally last weekend are hurting not just his political standing, but his pocketbook.
Three charities announced Thursday that they were canceling fundraisers at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, a sign the president’s business is starting to suffer backlash from his comments Tuesday about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Cleveland Clinic said in a statement that it decided not to hold its annual event at his Palm Beach resort after “careful consideration” of a number of issues. It didn’t elaborate, but the Ohio-based hospital was already under pressure to shift venues.
Doctors, nurses and medical students of the hospital had signed a public letter earlier this year objecting to Mar-a-Lago given President Trump’s plans to cut funding of medical research and other policies.
The Cleveland Clinic has held its annual fundraiser at the resort for eight years.
A few hours after the hospital pulled out, the American Cancer Society said it also planned to shift the venue of its annual fundraiser, called the 2018 Island of Palm Beach gala.
“Our values and commitment to diversity are critical as we work to address the impact of cancer in every community,” spokeswoman Miriam Falco said in statement. “It has become increasingly clear that the challenge to those values is outweighing other business considerations.”
Falco declined to elaborate.
Late Thursday, the American Friends of Magen David Adom announced it had decided not to hold its 2018 fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago. The group, which raises money for an ambulance service in Israel, has been holding its annual gala at the resort since 2012.
Its spokesman, Erik Levis, gave no reason but said the decision came after “considerable deliberation.” His statement noted the organization is “apolitical.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment. The managing director of Trump’s properties in Florida, Bernd Lembcke, did not respond to a phone call seeking comment, either.
The president has drawn widespread and bipartisan criticism for his comments at a Trump Tower news conference where he insisted that “both sides” were to blame for violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville where a counterprotester was killed. The president dissolved two business councils after members who are CEOs began quitting.
Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove was a member of one of those panels designed to advise the president on the economy and jobs.
The gilded and glittering Mar-a-Lago has been a favorite spot for holding charity events and a money maker for the Trump Organization. Dubbed the Winter White House, it is one of the few places in the area that can hold a large crowd. Its 20,000 square-foot ballroom has massive archways and columns decorated in gold leaf.
Palm Beach town records showed that 21 charities held events at Mar-a-Lago between last November and April, during the active social season.
But the resort has also become the site of protest by groups who oppose the president’s policies and statements.
The American Red Cross faced pushback in January, when demonstrators rallied outside its annual fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago as the worldwide humanitarian relief organization was offering aid to those affected by Trump’s moratorium on the U.S. refugee program.
The organization did not immediately respond to questions about whether it plans to hold its fundraiser next year at the resort.
Some charities contacted by The Associated Press said they had no plans to change venues.
The Kravis Center said it plans to keep its annual wine auction at the Mar-a-Lago.
“The event has been held there for a number of years, and the folks supporting it want to continue to have it there,” spokesman Gary Schweikhart said.
The Palm Beach Police Foundation said in a statement that it plans to keep its annual ball at Mar-a-Lago because it is not a political event and no other venues in town can accommodate 700 guests.
The event raised $700,000 this year, according to town records, with the proceeds used to buy equipment for the Palm Beach Police Department, help its officers and families when they are in need, and provide scholarships for officers’ children. The foundation declined further comment.
Laurel Baker, executive director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, said in an email that “each organization should examine their mission statements to ensure that any fundraising efforts are not compromising their efforts.”
She said she is not implying that charities should shun Trump.
Condon reported from New York and Smyth from Columbus, Ohio.