Jimmy LaSalvia and Chris Barron, the founders of GOProud, are expressing remorse for their role in helping Donald Trump become the Republican powerhouse he is today. The two arranged Trump’s first speech in front of conservative activists and politicians as part of their plan to win acceptance for the group at the notoriously homophobic Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
“I’m sorry, America. I helped Donald Trump to give his first speech as a potential candidate,” LaSalvia told CNN. “And now I’m going to work to make sure he never gives an Inauguration speech.”
LaSalvia, who has since left the party and now identifies as an independent, says he plans to campaign for Hillary Clinton this year. Barron has pledged that he will not support Trump’s candidacy if he wins the nomination.
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Back in 2011, CPAC allowed GOProud to co-sponsor the event after previously denying the group’s application and other conservative and religious right groups went haywire. The Heritage Foundation and Liberty Law School both dropped out rather than participate with a gay group and by 2012, the conference was showing GOProud the door. They were no longer allowed to participate.
To bolster their standing with their conservative peers, GOProud needed some star power to make a big impression. Barron called in a favor from political operative Roger Stone, a friend of Trump’s. Stone worked for Trump’s campaign until late last year when he abruptly quit and is co-author of a conspiracy book about the Clintons. His co-author is the new Travis County, Texas GOP chair who has gone berserk on Twitter this week, calling Hillary Clinton a “bull dyke” and claiming Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, and George HW Bush are secretly gay.
“On our side of the aisle, we’re hard-pressed to find celebrities that people get excited about. Democrats have every TV star and movie star,” Barron told CNN. “I thought, let’s do something fun. Let’s make this entertaining and will get people excited. And frankly, it did.”
Four years after Trump appeared at CPAC and after years of teasing, he finally became an official candidate in the Republican primaries and has swept the competition aside to the chagrin of party leaders. His social media tirades, refusal to disavow the support of white supremacists, and blatant misogyny has turned off the moderate wing of his party while energizing the Tea Party and the more unsavory parts of the Republican base.
“I think we both got out of it what we needed out of it. He used us and we used him to further our goals,” LaSalvia told CNN. “I admit, I was enamored by Trump at first. I understand the appeal he’s having with people because I’m frustrated and I’m mad at the system too. But Donald Trump isn’t the answer.”
“He has unleashed forces with the conservative movement that we will be dealing with for years and years to come,” Barron added. “If I would have known what I know now, I would have found somebody else.”