Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday gave what one attendee described as a quintessential Trump speech before a group of Hollywood conservatives — brash, self assured, and plenty of humor.
Trump’s appearance before Friends of Abe — a fellowship of showbiz right-of-center professionals — was met with protests outside the Luxe Hotel in Brentwood over remarks he has made about Mexican immigrants.
Chanting “Donald Trump has got to go” in English and Spanish, the protesters drew occasional honks from passing cars on Sunset Boulevard, with a heavy presence of Los Angeles Police Department officers on watch.
But Trump told the more than 300 people gathered at the event that he felt those comments have been taken out of context and that he “had great affection for the Mexican people,” said Jeremy Boreing, who runs day-to-day operations for FOA.
At the FOA event, Trump said that his comments were “not meant as an indictment of everyone who crosses the border,” Boreing said. “He said that the problem on the border was created by two different governments.”
Trump said last month in his presidential kickoff speech that Mexico was “sending people that have lots of problems. … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Those comments triggered a number of companies to sever ties with his business entities. NBC dropped its association with him for”Celebrity Apprentice” and cancelled plans to air Trump’s Miss USA Pageant.
Trump said “that he loves NBC and was proud of the work he did at NBC,” Boreing said. Trump also suggested that the network, before severing its ties, “was mad that he was not coming back for another season of ‘The Apprentice,'” as he had thrown his hat in the ring for the presidential race.
Trump also said that “he plans to release his financial statement next week, and he assured us that we would be impressed by the statement,” Boreing said, in line with his persona of not shying away from pointing out the sucessess in his life.
The speech “was brash and self-congratulatory, but I think he is making the serious point that he has been successful in life which is what qualifies him to make a run for the presidency,” Boreing said. Of the crowd’s response, he said, “it was a very raucous room, very happy. He gave a very very funny set of remarks — extraneous and off the cuff.”
“I would say he is probably the presidential candidate in the field today who best understands stagecraft,” he said.
Boreing said that the protests were peaceful and there were no incidents.
When word got out that Trump was planning this Los Angeles appearance, a number of immigrant groups planned protests, including Chirla Action Fund, which helped organize the demonstration at the intersection of Sunset and Church Lane.
Along the street protesters waved placards saying “Dump Trump” and pinata effigies of the mogul.
“He lost a lot of business because of what he said, but it doesn’t matter, because he has a lot of money,” said Diana Wong, 26, of East Los Angeles. “That to me tells me his interests aren’t with the people at all.”
Wong said she moved to Los Angeles from Mexico when she was 5, but is of Chinese ancestry.
“I am against the fact that he is stereotyping people who are here as workers, as families, as students such as myself,” she said. “I don’t think I am the model of what he thinks when he says immigrant.”
About a half-dozen Trump supporters joined the crowd outside the hotel. One had a sign that read, “If you’re politically correct, you can’t handle the truth.”
Friends of Abe was started a decade ago as a fellowship for showbiz conservatives, intent on keeping a low profile in an industry dominated by Democrats. Although it has drawn members like Gary Sinise, Kelsey Grammer and Jon Voight, much of its membership is made up of writers, producers, directors and crew members, and their events are private.
But it has gained more visibility in recent years, in part because it routinely draws major GOP and conservative figures as speakers, such as Carly Fiorina, Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. The IRS granted FOA nonprofit status last year.
Boreing said it does “not endorse candidates for public office. We host movement conservatives so that our members can hear their views directly without the filter of editors and editorializers.”
He said members “did not at any point consider cancelling the event. That would be ungracious and inhospitable to our guest. Plus we believe in free speech and giving our members the chance to reach their own conclusions about movement conservatives.”
As with other speakers, plans for Trump to address the group were made several months in advance, before he announced his presidential bid. “We didn’t schedule this event as a public statement,” Boreing said.
Sinise, one of the group’s founders, handed off day-to-day responsibilities for the group four years ago and was not involved in the Trump booking.
Boreing said that he hopes that despite all the attention paid to the Trump event, “my hope is that it doesn’t change our core mandate. We are not looking to be a voice in the movement. This is an opportunity to come together and spend time with like-minded friends.”
Trump’s comments also have been drawing attention among Sacramento lawmakers.
On Thursday, state Sen. Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) introduced a resolution denouncing Trump.
State Senate pro tem Kevin de Leon, co-sponsor of the resolution, told Variety on Friday the resolution would be heard in a policy committee and eventually be voted on the Senate floor.
“It is a very strong resolution that sends a message that divisiveness and scapegoating and targeting of individuals have no place in America,” he said.
He noted that rather than apologize or modify his remarks, Trump “is going head first even deeper, but obviously that is his own prerogative.”
Asked whether the Luxe Hotel should have tried to pull out of the event, as some groups have called for, de Leon said, “I am respectful of all businesses. Obviously they have the right to host whatever events. Business is business at the end of the day. It would have been nice had they canceled it, give that their workforce is primarily Latino immigrant, and most likely Mexican or Central American. But obviously they have made their own decision.”