June July 2016
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The Advocate

The Gay Men Who Helped Propel Trump Now Regret Their Actions

Trump

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has his own party shaking in its boots. Party figureheads like former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman are trying to convince voters to pick anyone but him. Following his triumph on Super Tuesday, and what the polls are showing, Trump looks nearly unstoppable. And two of the men who helped make Trump's candidacy happen — two gay men — are saying they're sorry.

Christopher Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia, leaders of the now-defunct LGBT Republican group GOProud, described to CNN how they helped endear Trump to fellow conservatives by inviting him to give his first serious speech as a presidential candidate. Back in 2011, GOProud cosponsored the Conservative Political Action Conference — even as antigay Republican forces went beserk that an LGBT group was part of the proceedings. Knowing they had to convince the right-wing contingent that they were worthy of inclusion, Barron and LaSalvia worked to make a big splash. They wanted to get a celebrity to speak and came up with Donald Trump. Working a connection, they got the businessman to speak at 2011's CPAC, even though he hadn't yet committed to running for president in 2012.

Trump appeared shaky at first, according to Barron and LaSalvia. But when he reached the dais and saw people screaming their approval, he found his footing. Trump would go on to discuss some of the issues that he's brought forth in his current campaign — animus against President Obama, Mexico, and China, and concern over the U.S.'s position in the world. The speech would launch his serious presidential ambitions — he half-heartedly ran for president in 1988 and 2000 — and convince conservatives he was a viable candidate. After the speech, both LaSalvia and Barron personally told Trump to run for president.

"I'm sorry, America," LaSalvia told CNN. "I helped Donald Trump to give his first speech as a potential candidate. And now I'm going to work to make sure he never gives an Inauguration speech."

LaSalvia has since quit the GOP, written a book about his experiences there, and promised to campaign for Hillary Clinton. Barron is still affiliated with the party but also says he deeply regrets giving Trump a platform.

"He has unleashed forces with the conservative movement that we will be dealing with for years and years to come," Barron said. "If I would have known what I know now, I would have found somebody else."

RELATED: Read Trump's 2000 interview with The Advocate.

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