Laurel Baker, executive director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, minced no words Thursday about whether charities should continue to hold their events at Mar-a-Lago this season following President Donald Trump’s statements about the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va.
“If you have a conscience, you’re really condoning bad behavior by continuing to be there,” Baker said. “Many say it’s the dollars (raised at the events) that count. Yes. But the integrity of any or organization rests on their sound decisions and stewardship.”
She added: ”Personally, I do not feel that supporting him, directly or indirectly, speaks well of any organization.”
Baker’s comments are the strongest yet from Palm Beach County’s business community in the wake of Trump’s conflicting and, too many, polarizing statements made in the aftermath of the weekend violence.
On Friday night, neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched through the northwestern Virginia town that is home to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. On Saturday, a suspected white supremacist a rammed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19.
In response, Trump first blamed Saturday’s violence “on many sides,” but zeroed in specific criticism of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis two days later after a backlash to his initial statement.
However, Trump doubled down on his first set of comments during a volatile, off-the-cuff news conference Tuesday afternoon at Trump Tower — and then tweeted support for Confederate monuments on Thursday.
The president’s defiant statements, which have been applauded by former KKK leader David Duke and other white supremacists, have put national business leaders in a quandary. A series of defections from two White House business advisory councils led to dissolution of the groups on Wednesday.
However, no one from the Palm Beach County business community had spoken out publicly — until Baker.
Baker also expressed no patience for charities that will try to keep a low profile during this turbulent period.
“I hope that people will not maintain their neutrality,” she said. “This is the best time ever for people to show their backbone.”
Baker encouraged all charities to reexamine their core purpose for guidance about how to react to Trump’s comments.
In particular, she called out charities that advocate for social justice, the disabled, the poor and the sick.
“Look at your mission statement,” Baker said. “Are you living up to it?””