The Slatest

Trump’s Campaign Just Got Caught in a Lie. That’s Not Even The Most Awkward Part.

Donald Trump exits his plane during his trip to the border on July 23, 2015, in Laredo, Texas.

Photo by Matthew Busch/Getty Images

Donald Trump the reality TV star loves to fire people with the world watching. Donald Trump the presidential candidate? Not so much. At least that appears to be the case with an Arizona Republican whom Trump’s team tried and failed to distance itself from Tuesday night, in the wake of revelations of the politico’s racially charged social media past.

When BuzzFeed asked Trump’s campaign about Aaron Borders, a spokeswoman for The Donald originally denied the campaign had any official connection with the man. “I’ve never heard of Aaron, but he appears to be an overzealous volunteer,” said Hope Hicks. The problem with that statement, though, is that Borders provided BuzzFeed with phone recordings of Trump’s campaign manager asking him to draw up a primary plan for Arizona, and expressing intent to hire him. “You help on that. Then we say, ‘Hey dude, you’re the guy, you know what to do, let’s start moving forward on it,’ right?” campaign manager Corey Lewandowski tells Borders in the recording.

Borders not only did what he was asked; he also says he was in Ohio on Tuesday to help the campaign finalize its budget and to sign his contract. A paid job, however, never came—something both sides agree on and a detail that the Trump campaign is using to try to shrug off its original spin job. In a follow-up email to BuzzFeed, Hicks offered a more delicate denial: “Aaron Borders is not and has never been employed by the Donald J. Trump for President campaign.”

That may be technically true, but the recordings strongly suggest that the original don’t-know-him response from the campaign was a blatant attempt to manipulate the press and make the story go away. When Lewandowski called to tell Borders that they were parting ways to avoid any fallout from his Facebook page—which compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden, and suggested that Obama was only elected because he was black, among other unsavory things—Trump’s campaign manager offered this doozy of a quote (emphasis mine), which will look familiar: “We’ll just tell BuzzFeed that there’s no formal relationship, that you’re an overzealous volunteer, and that you’re not part of the campaign in any way shape or form, regardless of what the story says.” (Anyone still willing to give Lewandowski the benefit of the doubt should head on over to BuzzFeed and listen to him tell Borders he will “sue [his] fucking ass to next year,” and then read his on-the-record denial he ever said anything like that.)

The dispute over Borders comes only days after the campaign fired adviser Sam Nunberg after Business Insider discovered a number of old racist posts on his Facebook account. “Effective immediately, low level part-time consultant, Sam Nunberg is no longer associated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign,” Lewandowski told the New York Times in a statement on Sunday.

The Borders mess is another reminder of the aggressively nasty way Team Trump does business. But the bigger question is: Why would Trump pass up the chance to deploy his trademark catchphrase and publicly part ways with an intolerant guy who, at the very least, had been in repeated contact with Trump’s campaign and helped organize a high-profile rally in Arizona this summer?

The Donald’s decision not to take that path highlights an inherent awkwardness in his intentionally politically incorrect campaign. Trump prides himself on his ability to say what he wants without a filter, even when those comments are bigoted or xenophobic. This is a guy, after all, who launched his campaign with a rambling rant about Mexicans being rapists and murderers. Four years ago, he was beating the birther drum more loudly than anyone. Flash-forward to today, and he’s still unwilling to concede that President Obama is American-born. Given his own track record, then, Trump would have had a difficult time saying exactly what it is that Borders did that was unacceptable to him—easier to say that he was never hired than to explain why he was fired and risk undercutting that same no-apologies brand of belligerence that his supporters love so much.

It’s no surprise, after all, that Borders said that he didn’t “think twice about being candid” on Facebook given the way the man he wanted to be president conducts himself. “I thought, you know, this is the kind of guy that I, you know, he’s not PC,” Borders told BuzzFeed. “Neither am I, you know.”

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the 2016 campaign.