As president-elect, Donald Trump has lashed out at various individuals (a CNN reporter, Alec Baldwin, the cast of Hamilton) for challenging him. On Wednesday night, he branched out beyond the liberal elite, launching a baseless attack on an Indianapolis union leader who pointed out that Trump falsely claimed he saved far more jobs at Carrier than he actually did.
Seven months after promising to prevent the air-conditioning and heating company from shipping jobs to Mexico, Trump announced last month that he’d struck a deal with United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company, to save 1,100 American jobs. “I will tell you that United Technologies and Carrier stepped it up,” he told workers while visiting the Indianapolis factory last week. “And now they’re keeping — actually the number’s over 1,100 people, which is so great, which is so great.”
That would be so great, but unfortunately it wasn’t true. While the deal gives Carrier $7 million in tax credits from Indiana over the next decade, it still gets to move hundreds of jobs to Mexico. This week, workers finally got a breakdown of which jobs will be moving, and learned that Trump only saved 800 jobs at Carrier. WTHR reported:
Union workers got a letter at the plant saying Trump’s deal with Carrier will save only 730 factory jobs in Indianapolis, plus 70 salaried positions — 553 jobs in the plant’s fan coil lines are still moving to Monterrey, Mexico.
All 700 workers at Carrier’s Huntington plant will also lose their jobs.
Chuck Jones, president of the United Steelworkers 1999, which represents Carrier employees, told the Washington Post on Tuesday that he had hoped Trump would use his appearance at the plant to clarify how many workers were still losing their jobs. “But he got up there,” Jones said, “and, for whatever reason, lied his ass off.”
Then, on Wednesday night on CNN, Jones said that while he appreciates Trump helping Carrier employees, he wishes Trump would have been more upfront about the numbers, because he gave hundreds of workers false hope.
Minutes later, Trump launched a nonsensical attack on Jones, suggesting on Twitter that companies are shipping jobs overseas because of union leaders like him.
Trump circled back about an hour later, blaming the union for failing to make Carrier keep the other 553 jobs from moving to Mexico.
The union was not invited to participate in negotiations between United Technologies and the Trump transition team, but Jones has been working for months to save Carrier jobs in Indiana. Vice-President-elect Mike Pence actually mentioned Jones by name back in March in a tweet about their efforts to stop Carrier’s move to Mexico.
And unions quickly leapt to Jones’s defense:
Jones responded on CNN, saying via phone that Trump’s attack “wasn’t very damn nice,” but it “must mean I’m doing a good job.” He also noted that instead of admitting his mistake, Trump chose to lash out at Jones. “I think that is pretty low down, low life,” he said.
Later on MSNBC, Jones said that since he publicly fact-checked Trump, he’s been receiving threats from Trump supporters. “Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”
Jones said it takes more than that to rattle him. “I’ve been doing this job for 30 years, and I’ve heard everything from people who want to burn my house down or shoot me,” he said. “So I take it with a grain of salt and I don’t put a lot of faith in that, and I’m not concerned about it and I’m not getting anybody involved. I can deal with people that make stupid statements and move on.”
But many noted that it’s still alarming and dangerous to have the president-elect launching false personal attacks against his critics.
This sparked an extraordinary plea from Robert Reich, who happened to be on CNN after Jones called in. Reich addressed Trump directly, rightly pointing out that there was a good chance he was watching the network. “Stop this. This is not a fireside chat. This is not what FDR did. This isn’t lifting people up,” he said.
Reich pointed out that Trump takes offense to anyone criticizing him, whether it’s a CEO or a local union leader, and that’s an untenable position for the president of the United States. “You are going to have at your command not just Twitter but also the CIA, the IRS, the FBI,” he said. “If you have this kind of thin-skinned vindictiveness attitude toward anybody who criticizes you, we are in very deep trouble, and, sir, so are you.”