Brow Beat

Trump on Aretha Franklin: “She Worked for Me on Numerous Occasions”

Aretha Franklin at Radio City Music Hall, arm outstretched.
Aretha Franklin.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Read more of Slate’s coverage of Aretha Franklin.

Fans of Aretha Franklin are in mourning today, including some of her more famous admirers, who have taken to social media to express their admiration for the late Queen of Soul. Barack Obama, for instance, wrote on Twitter that “Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. “

Donald Trump also weighed in on Franklin’s death on Thursday, and for about eight seconds it seemed like maybe he would be able to deliver a straightforward statement on the passing of an American icon without making it about himself. Nope! “I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well,” he said to reporters. Then came the kicker: “She worked for me on numerous occasions.”

The president continued: “She was terrific, Aretha Franklin, on her passing. She’s brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come. She was given a great gift from God, her voice, and she used it well. People loved Aretha. She was a special woman. So I just want to pass on my warmest best wishes and sympathies to her family.”

The White House has not clarified in what capacity, if any, Franklin supposedly “worked” for Trump. Franklin did perform twice at Trump’s casinos in 1988 and 1990, according to the Press of Atlantic City, and attended the grand opening of Trump International Hotel and Tower in 1997, according to the New York Times, before giving a private concert. But surely no one’s ego is so big that they would consider a legendary singer—particularly a black woman and a champion of the civil rights movement—performing in any venue, regardless of who owns it, to be “working for” them. Right?