Donald Trump allegedly told guests at Mar-A-Lago that he had items at the resort fumigated after a visit from a man with AIDS.
The man in question was Roy Cohn, Trump’s longtime “fixer,” who died from complications due to AIDS in 1986.
Cohn was a lawyer who worked for Sen. Joseph McCarthy and outed gay people in the federal government during the Lavender Scare — despite allegedly being gay himself. He was also Trump’s personal lawyer during the ’70s and ’80s.
In 1984, he was diagnosed with AIDS, and according to journalists Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfield, “after Cohn became sick with AIDS in the 1980s, Mr. Trump distanced himself, steering business elsewhere.”
In their new book The Fixers: The Bottom-Feeders, Crooked Lawyers, Gossipmongers, and Porn Stars Who Created the 45th President, they allege that Trump told guests at Mar-A-Lago in 2016 about a visit from Cohn not long before his death.
Trump, planning his new administration in the weeks after winning the 2016 election, was reportedly “sentimental” about Cohn, according to the book.
Following his win, he reportedly told those at Mar-A-Lago, “We sure miss Roy, don’t we?”
But the book also shows Trump’s apparent ignorance surrounding HIV/AIDS, particularly during the ’80s, in a description of his remarks to those at Mar-A-Lago about Cohn’s visit.
Cohn was reportedly hosted for dinner, with guests paying “tribute to the dying lawyer,” at a meal that included “ornate” place settings and a gold candelabra.
But, per the book. “Trump recalled to his guests that after Cohn had left, ‘I had to spend a fortune to fumigate all the dishes and silverware.'”
If true, it’s a stunning admission from Trump in 2016, weeks before assuming the presidency. While such attitudes might have been sadly commonplace in the ’80s, The Fixer suggests Trump felt comfortable sharing his response even after decades of medical and scientific advancement in treating and combating HIV.
It also reflects the somewhat mixed record of Trump’s administration with regards HIV.
In his State of the Union address last year, Trump pledged to reduce the rate of new HIV infections in the United States by 90% by 2030.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the HIV epidemic in the United States,” he said. “Now is the time.”
But Trump’s administration has also sought to discharge HIV-positive servicemembers from the Air Force, a policy that a federal court recently blocked and called “outmoded and at odds with current science.”
The administration was also forced to clarify its policy of separating migrant children from their HIV-positive parents at the border, after Customs & Border Protection Chief Brian Hastings suggested HIV status could be used to justify separation.
In 2018, the Trump administration also suspended access to materials being used in research towards an HIV cure.
Outside of direct policy, Trump adviser Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, recently said that HIV was “God’s moral law” for gay people.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to clarify Cohn’s work with McCarthy.
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