To some, it might look like Donald Trump gave thousands of dollars to two LGBT groups, which is sure to perk the ears of Ted Cruz and other social conservatives. But a document showing the donations doesn't tell the whole story.
A 2012 tax return from the Donald J. Trump Foundation has been floating around online, even being shared by the Log Cabin Republicans, and without any context, it gives the impression that Trump provided $30,000 in charitable donations to LGBT organizations. Posted by Crain's New York in 2015, the document shows the following donations:
But singer Aubrey O'Day and comedian Lisa Lampanelli are really responsible for getting Trump to sign checks to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network and GMHC. They were contestants on the 2012 season of The Celebrity Apprentice, a version of his NBC reality show, and selected the charities for their winnings.
GLSEN spokeswoman Kari Hudnell confirmed to The Advocate that the group receieved a $20,000 contribution from the Donald J. Trump Foundation. "In 2012, we did receive money from the Trump Foundation," Hudnell said. "It was all in relation to Aubrey O'Day appearing on Celebrity Apprentice. She was playing to benefit GLSEN."
The contribution to GMHC on behalf of the Trump Foundation also comes from The Celebrity Apprentice. A GMHC spokesperson issued this statement to The Advocate:
“GMHC was honored that Lisa Lampanelli — a longtime GMHC supporter — chose us as her charity in 2012 on Celebrity Apprentice. In total, Ms. Lampanelli raised $130,000 on the show for GMHC, with a $10,000 match from Trump, a routine part of the show during its respective seasons. We are glad Ms. Lampanelli helped to raise much-needed funds to support our care and advocacy services for thousands of men, women and families affected by HIV/AIDS.”
The Republican presidential front-runner has recently been attacked by opponents such as Cruz over whether he's conservative enough, with the Texas senator calling Trump weak on same-sex marriage. For the record, Trump has never supported marriage equality. But he's sent mixed signals to voters by saying both that he supports "traditional" marriage and that he respects the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges — confusion which the Log Cabin Republicans called out in a video the group posted Monday.
The video addresses Trump, asking, "Where Do You Really Stand on Marriage Equality?" An article from the Christian News Network is shown on-screen with the headline "Trump Taxes Reveal Donations to Gay Activists" — a reference to the Celebrity Apprentice donations.
Log Cabin has also posted on its official Facebook page a link to the Trump tax return showing the donations.
"It's a good sign that Mr. Trump has provided financial support to LGBT charities in the past," said Log Cabin president Gregory T. Angelo.
After being told that those contributions in 2012 came from Donald Trump's foundation because of Lampanelli and O'Day, Angelo said, "The check said Trump Foundation. You can't really spin your way out of that. I don't think Trump can say that he didn't give to those organizations."
Angelo was also critical of the groups for "distancing themselves" from Trump's money.
"It's a little disingenuous for those organizations, who gladly accepted money from the Trump Foundation, to try to distance themselves from those donations," he said.
Trump hasn't spent much time talking about LGBT rights on the campaign trail, spending much more time attacking immigrants from Mexico or Muslims. He even told a Daily Mail reporter this weekend to "sit down" after asking about marriage equality.
The Cruz campaign has repeatedly claimed that Trump is weak on fighting marriage equality and suggested a President Trump wouldn’t nominate conservative enough justices to the high court. For its part, before Log Cabin is willing to make an endorsement, Angelo is looking for assurances that Republican candidates won't try to reverse marriage equality.
"At the very least, whether it’s Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz or Mr. Kasich or Mr. Rubio, we need assurances that if they were to be elected president, they would do no harm on LGBT issues," said Angelo. "Overturning the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision is something that would be harmful to the thousands and tens of thousands of committed same-sex couples, who have the protections of civil marriage. That's a pretty low threshold that we’re asking for, and yet there are Republican candidates out there who are actually trying to roll back the clock on marriage equality."
With the exception of Ohio Gov. John Kasich — who said in a recent debate that “the court has ruled and I've moved on” — all of the Republicans who remain in the race have pledged to overturn marriage in some fashion. Trump said as much during a Fox News interview in January.
In an interview with The Advocate in 2000, when he was considering a presidential run on the Reform Party ticket, Trump said he supported amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is partly what backers of the Equality Act now pending in Congress have proposed. Trump has never been asked whether he stands by those comments from 16 years ago.
"I like the idea of amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation," Trump told The Advocate in the February 15, 2000, issue. "It would be simple. It would be straightforward."
When asked whether he'd hire a gay person in a Trump administration, the businessman seemed supportive of the principle, at least, that undergirds failed legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — which passed the Senate in November 2013 but was prevented from coming to a vote in the Republican-controlled House.
"I would want the best and brightest. Sexual orientation would be meaningless," Trump told The Advocate 15 years ago. "I’m looking for brains and experience. If the best person for the job happens to be gay, I would certainly appoint them."