Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade County joins Trump backlash over Mexican remarks


Miami has always been an important market for Donald Trump, but he’s now finding himself a local punching bag over inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants.

It began when Miami-based Univision anchor Jorge Ramos condemned Trump for accusing Mexico of sending “rapists” and other undesirables north over the border to the United States during Trump’s June 16 announcement of his presidential bid. “I challenge @realDonaldTrump to go a single day without Mexican employees,” Ramos posted on his Twitter account June 23, adding in an essay that Trump had become “the Hispanic community’s most hated man.”

The next day, Univision itself — which broadcasts nationally its top-rated Spanish-language programming from Miami — broke ties with Trump by refusing to air his Miss Universe beauty pageant.

Miami’s mayor declared Trump persona non grata in the city, Miami-Dade’s mayor returned a $15,000 campaign contribution from the mogul, and early Wednesday morning the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution to say it “condemns Donald Trump’s recent racist and derogatory remarks about immigrants.”

“I thought it was important for us as a body to condemn his racist and derogatory remarks about immigrants,” sponsor Barbara Jordan said. Jose “Pepe” Diaz, the commissioner who represents the district where Trump’s Doral resort is located, signed on as a co-sponsor.

The unanimous adoption of a symbolic resolution at the tail end of a 16-hour commission meeting hardly registered amid the national backlash against Trump. Following Univision’s break with Trump, NBCUniversal also announced it wouldn’t participate in Miss Universe or its feeder pageant, Miss USA. (Trump made a fortune as the star of NBC’s The Apprentice reality game show, but dropped out of the program to run for president.)

On Wednesday, Macy’s jumped into the break-up scrum, saying it would phase out its line of Trump ties and other menswear items.

But the commission vote captures the local complications for Trump, who owns one of the largest resorts in Miami-Dade County and who earlier this year was hoping to convince commissioners to hand him a lucrative management deal for the county’s premier golf course. Trump has played golf with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and the two exchanged letters as Trump launched a behind-the-scenes push to obtain a 99-year management agreement for the county’s Crandon Park golf course.

That proposal ran into political resistance almost immediately after it became public earlier this year, but the Trump organization had been in talks with Gimenez and his administration since the end of 2013 when the mogul and the mayor played 18 holes on Crandon itself. Trump withdrew the Crandon plan in May after it was clear commissioners would reject it, but a top Trump aide, Ed Russo, said that he planned to try again someday.

Tuesday’s resolution certainly seems to lengthen the already long odds of success. It began: “Whereas, during his announcement speech, Donald Trump made several racist and derogatory remarks about immigrants, referring specifically to Mexican immigrants as drug smugglers, criminals and rapists, and blaming Mexico for many of the problems in the United States…”

A Trump representative did not respond to a request for comment. The blow-up over his comments have not seemed to hurt his political standing. A new CNN national poll shows Jeb Bush at 19 percent, trailed by Trump at 12 percent. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was well behind in the poll, at 6 percent.

A Gimenez spokesman said the mayor has no plans to veto the commission’s resolution, meaning it will become an official county statement within 10 days. Gimenez called Russo for a campaign contribution in January, but sent word that the $15,000 would be returned on the heels of Trump’s imbroglio with Univision.

“Mayor Gimenez found Mr. Trump’s comments to be offensive. To Hispanics and to our community in Miami-Dade County,” said Michael Hernández, Gimenez’s communications director. The statement offers another measure of Trump’s toxicity in Miami.

One of Gimenez’s sons, C.J. Gimenez, did enough lobbying work for Trump at the city level that the mayor officially recused himself from the Crandon matter once it became public in February.

Freddy Balsera, owner of the communications firm where the younger Gimenez works, also has Trump as a client, and recently joined Mayor Gimenez on a New York fundraising trip for the 2016 mayoral race. (Both C.J. Gimenez and Balsera declined to comment for this story, with Balsera citing a confidentiality agreement.)

Trump has lent his name to a string of condo towers in Sunny Isles Beach and Hollywood, making him a significant player in a high-rise market where Latin American buyers drive a large chunk of sales.

Trump’s largest local venture is the 800-acre Trump National Doral resort, which joined his portfolio in 2012. A major professional golf tournament came with it, and so far that hasn’t gotten caught up in the backlash. The PGA’s media office declined to comment Wednesday on Trump’s remarks.

The Mexico comments, made in the context of Trump slamming the Obama administration’s border-control efforts, put Trump on the wrong side of efforts by most major brands to court the growing Hispanic market. The demographic’s growth has helped make Univision one of the country’s top broadcasters in any language, creating one of Miami-Dade’s leading corporate players.

Though officially headquartered in New York, Univision’s broadcasting studios are in Doral, next to Trump’s resort. Trump is now suing Univision for $500 million over the broken Miss Universe deal, and issued an order banning Univision employees from stepping foot on the resort.

In picking sides, local elected leaders have been eager to display their anti-Trump bona fides. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said last week of Trump: “I don’t think he should be welcome in the city of Miami at all after the things that he has said.” County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava wrote a letter Monday to Mayor Gimenez urging him not to consider the Trump Doral for any county events.

“I feel that Mr. Trump has shown great disrespect to our vibrant Hispanic community and to one of our community's most respected corporate members,” she wrote.