Trump campaign says he can't be anti-LGBTQ because he once had a gay friend

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The Trump campaign has set the lowest possible bar for LGBTQ 'support.'  

The Trump campaign continues to push the narrative that Donald Trump is a supporter of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people through his friendships with them — despite his administration's many attacks on the LGBTQ community.

Since August, the Trump campaign and its supporters began their efforts to sell Trump as the "most pro-gay president in American history." The campaign launched Trump Pride, its LGBTQ outreach committee, in August. The Trump Pride website says Trump supports LGBTQ people by protecting their "well-being and prosperity."

At the center of the effort to portray Trump as an LGBTQ ally is Richard Grenell. In May, Grenell left his post as acting director of national intelligence to co-chair Trump Pride and advise the Republican National Committee on the party's outreach to LGBTQ voters.

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At a Trump Pride event in Minneapolis over the weekend, Grenell spoke about Trump's friendships with gay people including Roy Cohn, the cunning lawyer who for decades worked as a conservative bulldog. In the early 1950s, Cohn worked for Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) and successfully argued for the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Cohn went on to advise Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan before dying from AIDS-related health complications in 1986.

By Grenell's telling, Trump and Cohn maintained a cherished friendship throughout the 1980s, during Trump's ascent as a New York power player. But a 2017 Vanity Fair story about the two men's relationship didn't paint such a rosy picture. After Cohn was disbarred and his health worsened, Trump "dropped him like a hot potato," Cohn's personal secretary Susan Bell said. The White House has disputed Bell's version of events.

Grenell's remarks echoed those of Tiffany Trump, who earlier this month gave a rambling speech at a Trump Pride event in Tampa.

"I have friends of mine who reach out and say, 'How can they make up stories? How would you support your father? We know your best friends are gay. We know your best friends are this this and this.' I say it's because my father has always supported all of you," Tiffany Trump said at the event.

Like many speakers at Trump Pride events, she did not go into great detail about how her father has supported LGBTQ people, opting instead to make vague statements like: "It's about love. It's about equality. It's about prosperity."

Tiffany Trump and Grenell also spoke at a Trump Pride event in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, on Sunday. The younger Trump mentioned her father's campaign to decriminalize homosexuality across the globe, which is one of the few specific policies the campaign has pointed to when arguing that Trump has fought for LGBTQ rights. LGBTQ activists interrupted the Pennsylvania event on Sunday to heckle Trump and other speakers. The Trump supporters at the event responded by shouting, "Four more years!"

During the event, Grenell talked as if the movement for LGBTQ equality had already succeeded. "We've actually reached equality for the most part," Grenell said, according to reporters at the event.

Grenell added that the left is "using the gays and lesbians for political leverage."

Trump Pride is mostly words and very little action. When a Mother Jones reporter asked Trump about his campaign's LGBTQ outreach effort last year, he said he didn't know what they were talking about.

As with previous Trump Pride events, there was virtually no mention of the struggles transgender people face at the events over the weekend. Although the Trump Pride website mentions transgender people when it describes the groups Trump "stands in solidarity with," the group's events have almost entirely ignored them. Grenell failed to mention transgender people in an August video touting Trump's record on LGBTQ rights.

Trump's allies have referred to his "support for the gay community" and even called the GOP a "pro-gay" party, despite the Trump administration's rollback of protections for LGBTQ people. In June, the Republican Party voted to keep its 2016 platform on LGBTQ rights, which opposes marriage equality. The president of the Log Cabin Republicans called the GOP's platform "the most anti-LGBT platform in the party's 162-year history."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.