President Donald Trump spent part of his Friday shaking hands with wealthy Republican donors at a series of big-ticket fundraisers in the Hamptons. His schedule always falls into focus of the day’s news cycle but one of those appearances has kicked his host — billionaire businessman Stephen Ross — into the spotlight and incited a wave of boycotts aimed at companies in Ross’ portfolio, Soul Cycle and Equinox.
Critics lobbied to get Ross to cancel the fundraiser but the event has gone on as planned despite traffic congestion in and around the Hamptons on Friday, a day that always sees a large number of Manhattanites flee the city in favor of a summer weekend in the tony enclave. The fundraisers created a traffic situation for commuters traveling on New York State Route 27, a 120-mile-long state highway that runs east-west and is the primary route from New York to the vacation destination.
Per local news reports, authorities had planned rolling closures to accommodate Trump’s travel plans, which stretched from late morning to mid-to-late afternoon. According to a live traffic map update Friday at 12 p.m., traffic was slow from Southampton through East Hampton. Those traveling by helicopter were also affected. Blade, the on-demand chopper service, has “Trump TFR” alerts (for Temporary Flight Restrictions) set for 9:30 to 11:45 a.m. and again from 12:45 to 3:05 p.m.
The Hollywood Reporter obtained two of the invites for the Hamptons fundraisers organized by Trump Victory, a joint effort by his campaign and the Republican National Committee. Ross, chairman of Related Companies and one of America’s most successful real estate developers, hosted donors at his Southampton home for $100,000 (for photo and lunch) or $250,000 (for roundtable, photo and lunch) at an event attended by RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, RNC co-chairman Tommy Hicks Jr., Trump Victory Finance chairman Todd Ricketts and campaign manager Brad Parscale.
On the invite for a second event — held at the Bridgehampton estate of Joe Farrell, which is known to locals as the Sandbox — were McDaniel, Hicks, Ricketts, Parscale, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Lee Zeldin, Kimberly Guilfoyle and the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. A source adds that Farrell was hosting another event though its unclear who was expected at that event, though more than 500 people were expected to pass through his doors Friday.
The doors at Equinox and Soul Cycle are another matter. After word spread of the Ross-hosted fundraiser, Trump critics took to social media to call for boycotts of businesses in his portfolio and celebrities helped to put the focus on industry-favored places like Equinox and Soul Cycle. Chrissy Teigen, Billy Eichner and Wilson Cruz were among the boldface names who spoke out on social media slamming the respective gyms. A THR source who canceled their Equinox membership reported that the gym staffer who fielded the call said they were “overwhelmed” by the number of clients exiting the gym.
In Los Angeles, LGBTQ activists Gonzalo Garcia and Adam G. Bass organized a protest outside a West Hollywood Equinox on Sunset Boulevard that is scheduled to start today at 4 p.m. “Let’s send a message loud and clear, we can not support companies who are trying to re-elect a racist, misogynistic, trans-phobic, homophobic, anti-immigrant and all around bigot,” per the event’s official Facebook invite. Close to 100 people are expected to attend that event. Meanwhile, other gyms are hitting social media in an attempt to gain newly-available clientele.
For his part, Ross released a statement saying that he’s always “been an active participant in the Democratic process.” He added, “While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about. I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions. I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is my deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy. I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
According to CBS News reporter Mark Knoller who was on the ground in the Hamptons, Trump told reporters that he was not concerned with backlash against Ross. His Hamptons appearance followed an earlier briefing Friday morning on the White House lawn where Trump told reporters that Hollywood is racist. “Hollywood is really terrible,” he said. “You talk about ‘racist.’ Hollywood is racist. What they’re doing, with the kind of movies they’re putting out, it’s actually very dangerous for our country. What Hollywood is doing is a tremendous disservice to our country.”
Pres Trump arrives in the Hamptons for 2 campaign/RNC fundraising events, he says will raise as much $12-million. “I’m used to saying billion,” he told reporters. Not worried about backlash aimed at fundraiser host Stephen Ross. Says he’ll be “hotter” than ever. pic.twitter.com/HeiX0XXVpb
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 9, 2019