Real estate mogul Donald Trump is famous for his theatrical firing of reality TV contestants. But his presidential campaign is apparently less adept at cutting ties with its weakest links.
BuzzFeed News caught the Trump campaign in a lie Tuesday night after inquiring about racially charged Facebook posts written by a man who said he was tapped to be its Arizona state director.
Aaron Borders, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the Arizona state House last year, recently boasted to local media that the billionaire tapped him to join the campaign after he orchestrated a well-attended rally in Phoenix last month. Trump’s campaign denied that Borders was ever employed with them; to be clear, Borders told BuzzFeed News he never signed a contract with the campaign or received any payment for his efforts, either.
But when BuzzFeed News first reached out to the Trump campaign about Border’s Facebook posts, which included a photoshopped image of President Barack Obama wearing a turban and a beard, spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the news site that she’d never heard of Borders. Hicks added that he “appears to be an over-zealous volunteer.”
Borders also provided BuzzFeed News with recordings of phone conversations between him and Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. The recordings documented discussions of work Borders planned to do for the campaign in Arizona, as well as Lewandowski’s attempts to distance the Trump campaign from Borders following BuzzFeed News’ inquiry about the Facebook posts.
“We’ll just tell BuzzFeed that, yeah, there’s no formal relationship,” Lewandowski said in one recording. “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.”
“I just can’t have this. It’s a problem,” he added, according to the recording. “It’s just no good. It’s negative publicity on staff. I just can’t have it.”
Lewandowski later revised the campaign’s statement on its relationship with Borders.
“I didn’t say I know who he was,” he told BuzzFeed News. “Hope may not have known who he was. He’s an overzealous volunteer who organized an event in Phoenix where Mr. Trump appeared. He has never worked for the campaign. He has never been paid by the campaign.”
The BuzzFeed News inquiry came two days after a top Trump aide, Sam Nunberg, was similarly axed from the campaign. Business Insider surfaced Facebook posts Nunberg wrote before joining the operation that, among other things, labelled President Barack Obama a “Socialist Marxist Islamo Fascist Nazi Appeaser” and referred to Rev. Al Sharpton’s daughter as a “N—!”
Lewandowski tried to downplay Nunberg’s involvement in the campaign as well, calling him a “low level part-time aide” in a statement announcing his dismissal.
Unlike Nunberg, however, Borders copped to writing the questionable Facebook posts.
“I had shared over the years politically incorrect post in an attempt to use humor to make my point politically,” he said in a statement posted online. “I am sorry if they were offensive to anyone. I care about all people even when we disagree.”