The Slatest

Donald Trump Overrules “Not So Smart” Staff, Tells Surrogates to Call Media Members Racist

Donald Trump delivers an April 27 speech in Washington, D.C.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

So Donald Trump has been running around television saying that the judge overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University, Gonzalo Curiel, is biased against Trump because “he’s a Mexican.” Curiel is a Mexican American from Indiana whose father came to the United States years before Trump’s mother did, so what Trump is doing is being a racist, and everyone, including many of his endorsees, are telling him to back off.

That resoundingly uniform reaction—OK, maybe this line of attack should be dropped?—is apparently one with which his communications people agree. As Bloomberg reports, a Trump aide had circulated talking points to campaign surrogates that instructed them to dodge this issue. “The best possible response is ‘the case will be tried in the courtroom in front of a jury—not in the media,’ ” the memo read.


But Donald Trump disagrees with this memo, now that he knows it exists. He learned of the memo on a conference call with surrogates including former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. According to Bloomberg, he told everyone on the call to “take that order and throw it the hell out.”

Told the memo was sent by Erica Freeman, a staffer who circulates information to surrogates, Trump said he didn’t know her. He openly questioned how the campaign could defend itself if supporters weren’t allowed to talk.

“Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”

So what should these surrogates instead say about the case? “The people asking the questions—those are the racists,” Trump proffered. “I would go at ‘em.”

Saying that people who call out racism are the Real Racists is not a … strong … retort for those defending a person committing hourly acts of racism, but it’s also a roughly mainstream conservative retort in such situations.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.