Politics

Trump Org: Extremist group will ‘absolutely not’ hold event at Mar-a-Lago

The anti-Muslim organization ACT for America, whose founder once wrote that terrorists attacks represent the “purest form of what the Prophet Mohammed created,” will have to find another venue for its planned Nov. 7 gala — President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club is yanking the welcome mat.

“This event will absolutely not be taking place at Mar-a-Lago,” Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said in an emailed statement Sunday.

On its website, ACT for America was advertising tickets for an annual gala next month at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Palm Beach resort, with seats starting at $1,500. An invitation for the dinner was still posted online Sunday afternoon. VIP tickets were listed as sold out. “Special political and legislative guests invited,” the invitation says. The group says it is the nation’s “largest national security grassroots organization.”

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In the past, Act for America’s annual event has drawn many conservative politicians as well as some of President Trump’s closest advisors, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. WWW.ACTFORAMERICA.ORG

Miller did not immediately respond when asked if the Trump Organization had allowed ACT for America to book Mar-a-Lago but then canceled after the Miami Herald published a story on the gala Saturday, or if the group had somehow started advertising tickets for an early November event at a venue it had not yet secured. An executive at the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Other venues have faced a backlash for hosting ACT for America, described by extremist-monitoring organizations as the largest anti-Muslim group in the country. Marriott International was criticized when it allowed ACT to hold its 2017 gala at one of its Virginia hotels. And after a Hyatt hotel hosted the 2018 event, CEO Mark Hoplamazian said Hyatt would no longer rent space to “hate groups.”

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The anti-Muslim group Act for America is advertising a gala at Mar-a-Lago featuring pundit Michelle Malkin as the keynote speaker. WWW.ACTFORAMERICA.ORG

Brigitte Gabriel, ACT for America’s founder, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday or emails sent Saturday. Gabriel, who reportedly visited the Trump White House to meet a legislative staffer two years ago, has said that a devout Muslim cannot be a “loyal citizen” of the United States. In 2017, the group organized a controversial “March against Sharia,” or Islamic religious law. ACT for America activists believe adherents of Sharia law are infiltrating American society and threatening the U.S. legal system. There is no evidence that is happening. The Anti-Defamation League calls such claims a “hateful conspiracy.” ACT for America has also been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

That hasn’t stopped national Republican figures from associating with the group, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis spoke at ACT for America’s 2017 conference, according to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Helen Aguirre Ferré, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said the “governor is not scheduled to attend” this year’s event.

Several major charities stopped booking events at Mar-a-Lago after Trump failed to condemn a deadly white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. The club’s revenues dipped 10 percent in 2018, according to financial disclosure forms. That has opened up slots for lower-profile, and even fringe, groups to start holding galas at the club.

Miami Herald staff writer Sarah Blaskey contributed to this report.
Nicholas Nehamas is an investigative reporter at the Miami Herald, where he was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that broke the Panama Papers in 2016. He and his Herald colleagues were also named Pulitzer finalists in 2019 for the series “Dirty Gold, Clean Cash.” He joined the Herald in 2014.
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