In what’s become a familiar pattern for the president, Donald Trump announced this week he would be expunging the record of one of his longtime allies.
On Wednesday, Trump bequeathed his presidential pardon to Conrad Black, a disgraced media mogul and former business partner of the commander in chief. Black served as an investor and major partner in building Chicago’s Trump Tower on Michigan Ave., but according to the Washington Post, the POTUS ultimately bought him out of the deal.
The 74-year-old, who once controlled the Chicago Sun-Times and Daily Telegraph through the Hollinger International newspaper empire, was convicted on four counts of fraud and obstruction of justice. Although he was ordered to pay $6.1 million to his former company and serve six-and-a-half years in prison, his sentence was significantly reduced when all but one of the fraud charges were overturned.
Black (pictured above) would ultimately serve 37 non-consecutive months behind bars. When he was released in May 2012, the Canadian-born British citizen was deported.
Following his release, Black was a major supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign and has remained loyal to him since his upset victory in the 2016 election. In a 2015 op-ed for the National Review entitled “Trump Is the Good Guy,” he rattled off a series of the president’s favorite talking points. Trump “is striking very close to the heart of the American problem: the corrupt, dysfunctional political system and the dishonest media,” Black wrote at the time.
Trump’s longtime friend continued his praise of the POTUS in the 2018 book Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. Its very first page describes Trump with the bluster of a propaganda minister, claiming he “possesses the optimism to persevere and succeed, the confidence to affront tradition and convention, a genius for spectacle, and a firm belief in common sense and the common man.”
In announcing the pardon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Black as an “entrepreneur and scholar,” crediting him with making “tremendous contributions to business, as well as to political and historical thought.”
Trump’s decision to erase the charges against Black is hardly unusual considering that he has also pardoned Joe Arpaio and Dinesh D’Souza, both high-profile supporters of his. Arpaio was convicted of three counts of criminal contempt of court in May 2016 for failing to comply with orders to cease the racial profiling of Latinos in Maricopa County, Arizona, where he served as sheriff. In September 2014, D’Souza, the conservative polemical filmmaker behind 2016: Obama’s America, was sentenced to five years of probation for campaign finance fraud.
Trump announced his pardon of Arpaio in August 2017 and D’Souza less than a year later. Arpaio was early on the bandwagon of Trump’s presidential campaign, calling him a “leader” who “produces results and is ready to get tough in order to protect American jobs and families” in a January 2016 statement. Days before the presidential election, D’Souza urged “all good Americans to choose Trump over Hillary” in a tweet.
Aside from being convicted criminals who support Trump, what do Arpaio and D’Souza have in common with Conrad Black? They all have a history of anti-LGBTQ remarks.
According to research provided exclusively to NewNowNext by GLAAD, Black has referred to the movement for transgender equality in the U.S. as “absurd” and “nonsense,” while claiming that trans people seek to eradicate difference between the genders.
Dinesh D'Souza at the Death of a Nation premiere, 2018.
As a columnist for Canada’s National Post, Black authored an op-ed defending Trump’s decision to expel transgender people from the military following a series of July 2017 tweets. Published just days after the president’s policy dump on Twitter, his devoted booster claimed that “there is no civil right to be a member of the armed forces of the United States or any country.”
“This nonsense about transgender rights in the U.S. armed forces is related to the quest for universality and elimination of the recognition of differences,” he wrote.
Joe Arpaio at the Republican National Convention, 2016.
Ignoring the conclusions of a RAND Corporation study commissioned by President Obama’s Department of Defense, Black further asserted that allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military would result in “very costly and potentially disruptive complexities.” In fact, the 2016 report found that trans inclusion would have a negligible impact on the U.S. armed forces, resulting in increases of between $2.4 million and $8.4 million” in the annual budget. That represents an infinitesimal 0.04% to 0.13% hike in the military’s health care expenditures.
Black has also taken aim at gender-pronouns in other columns for the conservative newspaper. Claiming pronouns like “ze” and “zir” are “imbecilic,” he asserted that there are “only two genders [and] two sexes.”
“[O]ur species and all other mammals are ‘gender binary,’” he claimed in a National Post op-ed defending alt-right figure Jordan Peterson (pictured below). “All people may state their sex, and if that is contrary to physical appearances, that remains their right. But no individual or group has the right to invent a new vocabulary and a new co-equal gender because of a state of ambivalence or confusion about which sex they are.”
Black believes that Trump’s tenure in office serves as a corrective to the liberal hoopla around transgender rights. In a separate column, he is particularly dismissive of concerns among trans people that “bathroom bills” introduced in states like North Carolina deny them a safe place to go about their business in peace.
“Trump is the closest the country now has to the personification of public impatience with absurd nostrums about global warming being America’s greatest threat and transgender washrooms a national issue,” he claimed, calling the president the “voice of America’s discontent.” “Politicians who failed to notice this will be seeking different employment. But there does not seem to be a similar rod on the backs of the political media, and they are a large part of this problem.”
While those remarks are undoubtedly inflammatory, the president’s other pardonees are equally unabashed when it comes to their anti-LGBTQ animus. During a speech delivered to a crowd in Kendall County, Illinois, eight years ago, Arpaio claimed that he gave women’s underwear to his Arizona inmates to humiliate them. He further joked that wearing pink panties “would not be a problem” in San Francisco. When Facebook, Spotify, Apple, and YouTube abandoned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones—who believes the government is turning frogs gay—Arpaio bought ads on his website.
D’Souza (pictured above) has an even lengthier anti-LGBTQ rap sheet. As GLAAD’s own research points out, the filmmaker has blamed Islamic backlash to “the sights of hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other” for the attack on the World Trade Center. In addition to repeated attempts to link homosexuality to Nazism, he has further suggested that same-sex relationships are “disgusting” and “immoral” and that LGBTQ people are “going to hell.”
Despite claiming that he would be a “friend” to LGBTQ people if elected to the White House, Trump has yet to condemn homophobic and transphobic statements among his close circle of supporters. In a statement to NewNowNext, GLAAD notes that—in contrast to his campaign promises—his pardoning of Black represents the president’s 107th attack on LGBTQ people since taking office.
“These pardons wreak of corruption and represent everything that's wrong with this President, who routinely thumbs his nose at the rule of law and has attacked LGBTQ Americans at every turn,” claims chief programs officer Zeke Stokes.
Others on GLAAD’s running list of affronts to the LGBTQ community include a recent statement by the Trump administration that it will oppose the Equality Act, which was approved by the Democratic-majority U.S. House of Representatives today. Sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the historic legislation would update the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in areas like housing, employment, public accommodations, education, federal funding, credit, and the U.S. jury system.
In a statement released to the Washington Blade earlier this week, a spokesperson for the president claimed the Equality Act is “poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.” The White House did not specify which aspects of the bill—which is not expected to clear the Republican-controlled Senate—it finds objectionable.
GLAAD notes that Trump’s opposition to the Equality Act is “a direct flip flop from his previous stance on the issue.” In a 2000 interview with The Advocate, he came out in favor of a federal bill granting LGBTQ non-discrimination protections.
These days, though, it seems the president’s views on LGBTQ rights can be judged by the company he keeps.