Three of the four New York City public-housing tenants who were featured in a video criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Housing Authority during the Republican National Convention on Thursday night say they were tricked into appearing in the convention video, the New York Times reported Friday. The tenants say they had agreed to speak with Lynne Patton, the infamous longtime Trump World fixture who runs the New York office of the the Department of Housing and Urban Development, about the conditions in buildings run by the NYCHA, but were only told afterward that their videotaped interviews were for the Republican Party. And they said they were never told that the interviews would be used for the RNC video — which was framed as proof of how the president has kept his promise to help American cities, and was one of many efforts at the convention to exaggerate Trump’s record on behalf of women and people of color.
It was also the second instance in which participants in a video featured at the convention have said they did not know footage of them would be used for that purpose, and yet more evidence of how spectacularly dishonest and deliberately misleading the four-day Trump-a-thon was.
On Tuesday night, the RNC broadcast a video of Trump — whose war on immigration has been the central focus of his administration — presiding over a White House naturalization ceremony featuring immigrants who were not told the event would be shown at the convention.
The New York tenants in Thursday night’s video told the Times they still stand by everything they said about de Blasio and the NYCHA, but one, Claudia Perez, was outraged that her comments were used for the RNC video. “I am not a Trump supporter.” she told the Times. “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.”
Tenant leader Carmen Quiñones, a “lifelong Democrat” who helped arrange the interviews at Patton’s request, said she didn’t realize what the interviews were for until after they started taping. She said she planned to vote for Joe Biden and told the Times that “she was disappointed that her words had been twisted to make it seem as if she were a Trump supporter” and that she wished she’d been told in advance about the RNC video.
Quiñones also explained, however, that she thought Patton had been a strong advocate for the housing authority and that she was happy to have the opportunity to criticize the widespread problems at the authority under Mayor de Blasio, adding that, “For me, this was not about party, but for us to make the national stage. They were the only ones that offered. My own party didn’t offer.”
Another tenant in the video, Manny Martinez, said he wanted to share his concerns about the housing authority, but that, “This was not an endorsement of Trump.” The fourth tenant, Judy Smith, said she is a Trump supporter and knew that her interview would be used in the RNC video.
Both Patton and the Trump campaign deny that the other three tenants were misled. “All interview subjects were fully aware of the purpose of the interviews,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtagh told the
Times, adding that, “Lynne Patton was acting in her own personal capacity” — a statement likely meant to address Patton’s violation of the Hatch Act by abusing her position to record material for use in what was effectively a Trump campaign advertisement.
Patton’s response to the story was to insist in a statement that, “Each [tenant] 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.” She also claimed on Twitter that she did show the video to the tenants, and that it had been vetted and cleared of Hatch Act violations by the White House — which isn’t saying much.
Patton, who worked as an event planner for the Trump Organization before following the family into the federal government, acknowledged in May that she didn’t care whether or not she had violated the Hatch Act when she retweeted a joke attacking representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — and that was not the first time she had violated the law.
The rarely enforced Hatch Act is supposed to prevent executive-branch employees from abusing their positions for political gain, and members of the Trump administration have violated the act so often and so regularly that if the law were ever amended to have more teeth, it could be renamed the Trump Act. Indeed, this year’s RNC didn’t just feature numerous Trump administration officials praising and defending their boss, but much of the event was either recorded or held — illegally — at the White House itself, concluding with a “TRUMP 2020” fireworks show over the Washington Monument on Thursday night.
As the Times also reported Friday, the ethics violations were all part of the convention-fun for the president:
Mr. Trump’s aides said he enjoyed the frustration and anger he caused by holding a political event on the South Lawn of the White House, shattering conventional norms and raising questions about ethics law violations. He relished the fact that no one could do anything to stop him, said the aides, who spoke anonymously to discuss internal conversations.