A mailer sent to at least some Republican Iowa primary caucusgoers says, “Thank you Donald Trump for standing up for LGBTQ+ Rights,” in what appears to be the latest attempt by supporters of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s (R) presidential aspirations to portray Donald Trump as overly friendly to LGBTQ+ people.
The mailer, obtained by the website Bleeding Heartland, says, “Donald Trump stood up for MARRIAGE EQUALITY and TRANS RIGHTS while many Republican leaders are fighting against gay marriage and trans rights.” A picture of a fist in rainbow colors accompanies the statement.
“She has genuinely been a nasty little b***h to me,” Greene said after the heated exchange.
In reality, Trump has never said he even supports marriage equality and spent his four years in the White House relentlessly attacking transgender equality. He opposed the Equality Act, banned transgender people from serving openly in the military, and fought several legal battles in support of religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.
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For proof that Trump supports LGBTQ+ people in spite of his past, the mailer cites how he invited the Log Cabin Republicans to Mar-a-Lago “to celebrate the recent victory of the LGBTQ+ community in securing a statutory right for gay couples to marry.”
The mailer refers to this as the “Marriage Equality Act” – they probably meant the “Respect for Marriage Act,” as there is no “Marriage Equality Act” – and quotes a Politico article from December 2022 where Trump said at a Mar-a-Lago event: “We are fighting for the gay community, and we are fighting and fighting hard. With the help of many of the people here tonight in recent years, our movement has taken incredible strides, the strides you’ve made here is incredible.”
The mailer also notes that the Miss Universe pageant, which Trump owned at the time, allowed transgender model Jenna Talackova to compete in the Miss Universe Canada competition several days after initially saying that only “naturally born” women were allowed to compete.
“It takes courage to change the culture, and we thank Donald Trump for standing with LGBTQ+ Americans to fight against the close minded Republicans who won’t accept change,” the mailer says.
The mailer says it was paid for by a group called Advancing Our Values, which Bleeding Heartland says is registered as a 504 non-profit in Iowa that isn’t responding to questions from the media.
While the mailer appears to be praising Trump, in the context of the Republican party in 2023, it’s unlikely that whoever made the mailer thought that it would get more people to support Trump in the upcoming caucuses. Hatred of LGBTQ+ people has reached a fever pitch this past year, especially in the Republican party.
The mailer echoes a video that DeSantis’s campaign posted – but didn’t produce – to their Twitter account that compared DeSantis to Donald Trump on LGBTQ+ issues and criticized Trump for being too supportive of LGBTQ+ people, citing offhand comments he has made in the past decade while ignoring his policy record on LGBTQ+ issues. The video contained images of shirtless buff muscle men inter-spliced with statements about how DeSantis is hurting LGBTQ+ people in his state.
The video was followed by a campaign ad that extolled DeSantis’s attacks on LGBTQ+ equality, playing a sarcastic Pride chant from the New York City Drag March – “We are coming for your children” – with scary music in the background and a narrator taking the chant literally, as if people at Pride in NYC were actually announcing that they were going to sexually abuse children.
The ad showed photos of transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas as well as a photo of a man dressed for puppy play near a small child, an image that has been shared by the far-right online for years and used to attack Pride celebrations. The origin or authenticity of the image is not known.
“When you come after our kids, we fight back,” the narrator said in the voiceover. “Because there’s nothing we won’t do to protect our children.”
Attacking Trump, the current frontrunner in the GOP primary, is a difficult needle to thread for the competing Republican campaigns because of his popularity and his rabidly supportive base. Appearing anti-Trump – even while actively campaigning against Trump – could be the death knell for a Republican primary campaign. DeSantis’s approach appears to be attacking Trump from the right using out-of-context soundbites that make Trump appear centrist, which aren’t hard to find considering Trump’s lack of message discipline and inconsistent politics over the last decade. LGBTQ+ issues, in particular, appear to be where DeSantis feels the most comfortable in light of his years attacking LGBTQ+ equality.
DeSantis is currently in a distant second place in 2024 Republican primary polling, getting an average of 20.9% support in recent polls, according to RealClearPolitics. Trump is first with an average of 53.0%.