How Trump Smeared Native Americans Back in 1993
If you think Donald Trump just started demonizing minority groups for personal gain during this current presidential campaign, then you don’t know Trump. The perpetually tan alleged billionaire has been spreading lies about minorities in order to help himself get ahead since at least 1993.
That was the year Trump testified before Congress in an effort to stop Native Americans from expanding the number of casinos they were building across the country. At the time of the hearing, Trump’s organization operated three casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Trump didn’t want the Indians to open up any casinos on his turf because he feared they would cut into his profits.
So what did Trump tell the congressional subcommittee on Native American affairs in an effort to stop it? Well, as The Washington Post reported in 1993, Trump “devoted much of his testimony to bad-mouthing Indians.”
Trump warned the congressional committee that if the Indians were allowed to open up more casinos it would bring more crime. In fact, Trump claimed that “organized crime is rampant on Indian reservations” and had already “gotten out of control.” And in true Trump fashion, he then ratcheted up the rhetoric, telling members of Congress that unless they stopped them now, the crime at the Indian run casinos would lead to the “biggest scandal since Al Capone.”
Trump then added the kind of comment we have come to expect him to say after he demonizes a minority group: “No one’s more for the Indians than Donald Trump.” Reportedly that statement elicited laughter from people at the hearing.
The Trump of 1993 apparently created the playbook that the Trump of today has been using of demonizing a minority group in pursuit of his agenda with baseless accusations that they are bringing crime or a threat, etc. Then Trump swears to us that he loves the very same minority group that he has just publicly demonized.
As Native American activist and author Gyasi Ross of the Blackfeet Nation explained to me, “Trump’s racism is neither creative nor intelligent.” Rather, Trump simply follows a “template” for “racist bullying.” Ross added that Trump’s outrageous claim that “Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers in 2015 was identical to the way he contended that Native Americans would bring the biggest organized problem since Al Capone in 1993.”
Ross is absolutely correct. Trump launched his presidential campaign last year with the lie that Mexico was sending people to America who were “bringing crime” and were “rapists.” And of course Trump later commented, “I love” the Hispanics, calling them “incredible people.”
Trump also followed that very roadmap with Muslims, calling for a “total and complete ban of Muslims” entering America, stating that “Islam hates us” and calling for surveillance of Muslim Americans. And true to form, Trump later told us, “I love the Muslims. I think they are great people.”
Well thankfully the members of the 1993 congressional committee were not as easy as a pushover for Trump as GOP primary voters in 2016. Trump was immediately pressed by subcommittee chair Rep Bill Richardson (D-NM) on why hasn’t he reported this alleged widespread crime ring at the Indian casinos to the FBI. Trump stunningly responded, “That's not my job.”
The reality is that Trump can’t report something that doesn’t exist. As Jim Moody, the FBIs’ then chief for the organized crime/drug operation testified, there was no evidence to support Trump’s outrageous claims. And a Justice Department lawyer added, “To date there has not been a widespread or successful effort by organized crime to infiltrate Indian gaming operations."
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) then unloaded on Trump: "In the 19 years I have been on this committee, I have never seen such irresponsible remarks.” He added, “You have cast on the Indians in this country a blanket indictment that organized crime is rampant. You don't know this; you suspect this."
The criticism of Trump by the Native Americans leaders at the hearing was just as swift. They called Trump’s lies about them “economic racism.” Tim Wapato, the then-executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association, remarked that "Congress must not allow itself to be used to implement the racist agenda” of a “greedy commercial gaming” tycoon.
But Trump was not done with his slandering of the Native Americans in pursuit of profit. In 2000, with the help of his long time friend/lobbyist Roger Stone, Trump secretly funded an ad campaign claiming that the St. Regis Mohawk Indian tribe was involved in organized crime. Why would he do that? Well, because Trump wanted to stop the St. Regis Mohawk Indians from opening a casino in New York State that would compete with Trump’s casinos. Of course there was no factual support for Trump’s claim that this Indian tribe was involved in organized crime and tribal leaders were understandably outraged.
The problem for Trump was that his secret plot to demonize the St. Regis Mohawks was discovered by the New York state lobbying commission. Consequently, Trump and Stone paid $250,000 in fines for failing to disclose, as required by law, that they had financed the negative ads.
And we have seen Trump ridicule Native Americans during this presidential campaign. As Ross explained, Trump’s “badgering of Elizabeth Warren as ‘Pocahontas’ is simply the continuation of his pattern of racist bullying.”
To those Trump supporters who think Trump is a breath of fresh air, they are wrong. Trump’s been employing the same hateful playbook for over 20 years—he just changed the minority groups he’s targeting to help him in the election. Who knows what other minority groups Trump will demonize in pursuit of personal gain going forward? And let’s hope we never have to deal with Trump using the office of President of the United States to engage in more of this un-American bullshit.