On Thursday morning, Confederate States of America President Donald Trump doubled down on his racist defense of the white nationalist rally that left one woman dead, and dozens more injured in Charlottesville, VA, this weekend.
In a series of tweets, Trump implied that the real victims of resurgent ultranationalism were the “beautiful statues and monuments” dedicated to the Confederate soldiers who fought for the right to own other human beings as property.
“The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced,” the president—clearly a fan of municipal fine arts—insisted.
So let’s take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? More than 25 years ago, Trump (whose megolomania was then confined solely to the realm of real-estate) was, in fact, a huge fan of smashing iconic statues.
In 1980, then-aspiring mogul Donald Trump acquired New York’s iconic Bonwit-Teller building on Fifth Avenue, with the goal of demolishing the structure to build what would become his Trump Tower. As part of that acquisition, Trump had promised the Metropolitan Museum of Art the massive stone relief sculptures of two dancing women, which adorned the facade of the Bonwit—on the condition that they could be removed in a cost-effective manner.
Instead, Trump demolished the statues without warning.
Under the guise of his imaginary spokesperson “John Barron,” Trump insisted to the press that “the merit of these stones was not enough to justify the effort to save them,” and said that the $32,000 cost of removing the art, coupled with a weeklong delay in the building’s demolition, outweighed what he claimed was the $9,000 (apiece) value of the statues. Of course, that’s a negligible fraction of the $15 million dollars Trump spent on the building, never mind the tens of millions more he would eventually pour into his skyscraper.
Besides, citing three supposed appraisals, “Barron” said that the statues were “without artistic merit.” So, take that art-lovers!
That explanation took Ashton Hawkins, then-VP of the Met’s board of trustees, by surprise.
“Can you imagine the museum accepting [the statues] if they were not of artistic merit?” Hawkins told the New York Times. “Architectural sculpture of this quality is rare, and would have made definite sense in our collections. Their monetary value was not what we were interested in. The Department of 20th Century Art was interested in having them because of their artistic merit.”
Nevertheless, in his book “Lost Tycoon,” Trump biographer wrote:
“On [Trump’s] orders, the demolition workers cut up the grillwork with acetylene torches. Then they jackhammered the friezes, dislodged them with crowbars, and pushed the remains inside the building, where they fell to the floor and shattered in a million pieces.
Perhaps if the Bonwit’s dancing women had been waving Confederate flags, Trump would have been more inclined to save them.