Tenants Say They Were Tricked Into RNC Video Appearance: ‘I Am Not A Trump Supporter’

Screengrab/RNC/PBS News Hour
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August 29, 2020 10:47 a.m.

Three of the tenants who appeared in a public housing clip that aired during the Republican National Convention have said they were never told that their interviews with a longtime Trump associate who oversees New York’s federal housing programs would be edited and used during the GOP convention.

“I am not a Trump supporter,” one of the tenants, Claudia Perez told The New York Times in an interview on Friday. “I am not a supporter of his racist policies on immigration. I am a first-generation Honduran. It was my people he was sending back.”

The revelation is the latest example of President Donald Trump’s willful exploitation government resources to advance his chances at re-election. 

In the video, the tenants spoke candidly about poor conditions in the housing authority’s buildings and appeared to praise Trump’s record on public housing while bashing Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Perez told the Times on Friday that while she stood by her criticism of the housing authority she was very upset about being misled to appear in a video that was later shown at the RNC. 

Manny Martinez, another tenant, told the Times that his grievances about public housing were “not an endorsement of Trump.”

While Perez and two other tenants told the Times that they had not been informed that their interviews would be used for the convention a fourth tenant, Judy Smith, said she was a Trump backer and knew the purpose of the video. 

Carmen Quiñones, a self-described “lifelong Democrat” and tenant leader who took part in organizing participants for the video told the Times that she wished that she had been told beforehand that the clip would be used at the RNC. She said she plans to vote for her party’s nominee Joe Biden in November. 

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, denied claims that the participants interviewed for the clip had been misled. “All interview subjects were fully aware of the purpose of the interviews,” he said. He added that Patton was “acting in her own personal capacity.”

Patton also issued a statement denying that she had misled anyone and saying that each of the four tenants knew that they would be featured at the convention “to increase awareness of the inhumane conditions that Mayor de Blasio has allowed for far too long.”

“Each participated regardless of political party because they recognized the importance of having a voice on the national stage and the undeniable improvements that have transpired under this administration,” Patton said.

In tweets, Patton later condemned the Times’ story and said that before it aired she had showed the full video to the resident organizer who she says called it “amazing” and “wholly accurate.”

The public housing clip was not the first example of the Trump campaign’s deceiving participants for an event involving the federal government that was then used as a pro-Trump prop during the RNC. On Tuesday, the convention showed a video of naturalization ceremony where five people became American citizens. Several of those participants have said they had no knowledge of the fact that they were being filmed for a political event. 

As head of the New York office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Patton is technically banned from leveraging her position as a government employee to engage in political activity under the Hatch Act. She told the Times that video was vetted and cleared for Hatch Act violations by the White House although Patton notably was found in violation of the Hatch Act in 2019.

 

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