Inside Donald Trump's Private Hollywood Event: "Love" for NBC, Pundits "Are Dopes"
Trump spoke at the Luxe Hotel to hundreds of members of Friends of Abe.
Donald Trump spoke to a private group of Hollywood conservatives known as Friends of Abe (FOA) Friday evening, where he expressed his "love" for NBC and even offered half-hearted praise for MSNBC host Al Sharpton.
Trump told the assembled room of conservatives that Sharpton "called me a racist. He came up to my office and apologized — it's true. No one will write that story."
The presidential candidate took time to criticize "stupid reporters" who he said continue asking him if he's "got the personality to run for President," and also slammed the media for talking too much about him.
Trump was speaking at the lavish Luxe Sunset Blvd. Hotel in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Inside were hundreds of members of FOA, a group founded primarily by actor Gary Sinise, while outside — kept at bay by a dozen cops, in addition to private security staff — were roughly 200 noisy protesters upset that Trump made disparaging remarks about illegal immigrants from Mexico. Every car that arrived at the hotel was carefully checked to make sure its occupants had legitimate business at the Luxe.
"Anderson Cooper called wanting another interview because his ratings went up," Trump told attendees. "Every show is 100 percent me," he joked.
But the Celebrity Apprentice host saved his harshest remarks for conservatives.
"Charles Krauthammer, he hates me ... George Will is a disaster," he said. He joked about Krauthammer and others who have complained about him "sucking the oxygen" out of the room and think they're so clever with that particular turn of phrase. "Most of them are dopes," he said of TV's political pundits.
Addressing all the companies that have severed ties with him, Trump told stories about ESPN, the PGA and Macy's. He woke up to headlines about ESPN dumping him. "It was for one round of golf at my course. I didn't even know I had a deal with ESPN. I kept the deposit and rented it to someone else."
Trump said that cutting ties with Macy's hurt because he likes a top executive there. He called the company cowardly, but said it is getting its comeuppance because thousands of consumers are ripping up their Macy's credit cards in solidarity with him and free speech.
Addressing his remarks about illegal immigrants from Mexico, he said he "loves" the Mexican people, but bemoaned the loss of American jobs. Along those lines, he told of Ford building a plant in Mexico. "Let the illegals drive the cars in," he quipped.
"Mexico is the new China," he continued. "We're losing so much business to Mexico, it's unbelievable. I respect Mexico."
He took a few moments during his off-the-cuff presentation to praise Ann Coulter, sitting at a nearby table: "I love her. She's so pretty. She lost Chris Christie when he gave Obama a French kiss."
When he briefly lost audio, he took a swipe at unions. "We could have a strike. I just turned the mike back on," he said.
He also reminisced about the early days with Apprentice. "It was supposed to fail," he said, pointing to one particular review that said women wouldn't like him. "Am I that bad?" he asked. "The head of NBC called to congratulate me, I didn't know who the hell he was."
Trump exclusively told The Hollywood Reporter prior to the start of the event: "Hollywood isn't abandoning me. They've been really good. NBC abandoned me because I'm running for president and NBC was very angry with me. This has nothing to do with inclusion. This has to do with me not doing Apprentice. NBC was not loyal, but I'm running for president, and I can't hold that against them. I think the liberals in Hollywood support me behind my back."
FOA head Jeremy Boreing joked to the crowd: "After sitting in a room with Ann Coulter and Donald Trump, you'll all be able to write a book: adios to my career in show biz."
Driving home the point that the membership prefers to remain anonymous, a well-known comedian who introduced Trump asked that his name not be used. "Donald Trump proved that the truth shall set you free. He spoke the truth, and NBC set him free," the comedian said while introducing him.
Coulter shared her support for Trump at the event: "I love Donald Trump. He's bringing up an issue the rest of them are too chicken or too stupid to discuss."
FOA member Lionel Chetwynd told The Hollywood Reporter inside the gathering, "It's common knowledge that there exists in Hollywood conventional wisdom regarding politics that approaches a hive mind. To venture outside of that conventional wisdom often means incurring the wrath of your colleagues and would-be employers."
"Speaking for myself I think it is natural to want to listen to Mr. Trump and learn what is in his heart and what his words really mean. Some may find those words vulgar and meretricious but I hope to discover whether Mr. Trump is speaking his own truth," Chetwynd continued.
Protesters began gathering outside the hotel three hours before Trump's scheduled arrival. Signs included "#TrumpHate," "LA Loves Immigrants" and "No Hate Language."
The protest, which featured people whacking piñatas with Trump's image on them, was organized by CHIRLA Action Fund, which has created a "Dump the Trump" campaign aimed not only at Trump, but also the Luxe Hotel and FOA. "Everyone knows the road to the White House is paved with Latino/immigrant votes. Mr. Trump should do the math," CHIRLA program director Diana Colin said Friday.
CHIRLA's signs, though, were responded to by conservative street artist Sabo, whose artwork peppered around the venue included a mock-up of a California caution sign often seen near the Mexican boarder warning of children running across the roads, with the tagline changed to: "Undocumented Democrats say Dump Trump."
When Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president last month, he said: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
The remarks caused a firestorm of rebuke in many circles, with several businesses severing ties with Trump, including NBC and Univision, both of which dropped their coverage of the Miss USA pageant, which is owned by Trump, and he promptly sued Univision for $500 million, claiming that the Spanish-language TV company breached its contract.
Media crew, protestors and cops gathered outside the hotel.
NBC also stripped Trump from The Celebrity Apprentice, and Trump retaliated by sarcastically posting on social media that Bob Greenblatt, the network's entertainment chairman was a "very loyal guy." Trump also made public a letter he says Greenblatt sent him after staying at Trump's Las Vegas hotel, praising him for his "generosity."
FOA is an acronym for Friends of Abe, a nod to Abraham Lincoln, the nation's first Republican president. While Sinise is generally cited as the group's founder, he has largely been inactive for the past four years, choosing instead to focus on the work he does for the men and women in the U.S. military through his Gary Sinise Foundation. Others who were instrumental in founding FOA a decade ago include actors Jon Voight and Kelsey Grammer, producer-writer Lionel Chetwynd and the late Andrew Breitbart.
There are other famous members, though they prefer to keep a lower profile when it comes to politics. Most of FOA, though, is made up of 2,300 executives and rank-and-file workers in the movie, TV and music industries. All of the group's activities are private, though FOA got heaps of unsolicited publicity when the IRS initially balked at granting the group's request for non-profit status a few years ago.
FOA routinely attracts A-list speakers, including GOP presidential candidates like Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Dr. Ben Carson and others, as well as pundits like Rush Limbaugh, but Trump's appearance is by far its most controversial event because its existence was made public.
"Gary Sinise started FOA as a place for conservatives working in the industry to come together for simple fellowship," said Jeremy Boreing, who runs the group. Boreing said Sinise had nothing to do with booking Trump, nor did he attend Friday's event.
In fact, there were very few recognizable celebrities in attendance Friday, which, contrary to some published reports, was not a fundraiser. FOA doesn't endorse candidates or raise money for campaigns, Boreing said.
"The controversy is unfortunate," Boreing told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday. "We aren't looking for any drama or to make a public statement. We're just hosting a private event for our own edification. It's unfortunate that someone leaked the invitation."