Fred Grimm

Tiger Bay Club offers forum to Trump’s vile and incendiary former butler

Anthony Senecal, a longtime butler to Donald Trump at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, March 4, 2016. Trump said last week on Facebook that he had fired Senecal in 2009, but the ex-butler has been an unofficial historian of the estate, giving occasional tours.
Anthony Senecal, a longtime butler to Donald Trump at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, March 4, 2016. Trump said last week on Facebook that he had fired Senecal in 2009, but the ex-butler has been an unofficial historian of the estate, giving occasional tours. NYT

Before the Age of Trump, the unhinged rantings of Anthony Senecal would have been ignored by everyone this side of the lunatic fringe. Except for the Secret Service, which takes suggestions of a presidential lynching seriously.

But in 2016, the likes of Senecal gets a speaking invitation to the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club, June 8, in Boca Raton, where members will get to hear, first hand, from Trump’s onetime butler whose Facebook ravings includes his fond hope to see the President dragged “from the white mosque” and “his scrawny ass [hanging] from the portico.”

With more hateful and racist remarks, festooned with vulgar characterizations of President and Michelle Obama so incendiary that, according to the Sun-Sentinel, he was questioned by the Secret Service last week.

His invitation to the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club, however, remains intact. The club styles itself as a sort of South Florida version of the National Press Club (which ought to sue), “a forum of public discourse and debate on politics, people and issues affecting our lives, our community.” Issues, I guess, like whether the president is a “Kenyan fraud” and whether the military should bomb U.S. cities with a black majority.

“It’s called freedom of speech,” Tiger Club President Barry Epstein told me Monday via email.

He referred me to the club’s attorney Peter Ticktin, who defended the decision to invite Senecal, whose tenuous link with fame comes from his tell-all remembrances of his onetime employment at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. “Please allow me to give a legal opinion as to any possible exposure that either our organization or we, personally, may have by having the butler as our speaker. The answer is NONE!” Tickin said in his email.

The lawyer added, “First of all, we are all permitted to say that Obama should be prosecuted and hung by the government. This is a permitted expression.” He went on to say, “So, even if the butler made some wrongful threat or criminal threat, which I understand is not the case, unless we attempt to harbor him or keep him from capture, or sustain him while he is escaping, we will have committed no wrong.”

Except, my inquiry had nothing to do with Anthony Senecal’s right to free speech. Or the legality liability facing the club. I was just wondering whether the forum’s invitation to a raving racist represented yet another unseemly departure from civil political discourse.

Senecal, mind you, has been denounced by Trump himself. Last Thursday, Trump posted on Facebook that the butler had been fired from his longtime job at Mar-a-Lago in 2009 and was “obviously a very troubled man.” Trump said, “His statements regarding President Obama and his family are totally disavowed . . . They are disgusting.”

Not disgusting enough, however, for the Tiger Bay Club. Peter Ticken tried to compare Senecal to actor Sean Penn, who visited infamous drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán in Mexico before his capture. Yet, “Penn has no civil or criminal liability.”

It’s an odd analogy, given that — unlike the vile foul butler — Sean Penn hasn’t been offered a forum before Tiger Bay Club.

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