American Friends of MDA moves fundraiser from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago
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American Friends of MDA moves fundraiser from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Group raising money for Israeli emergency service joins two other charities in shunning Florida club, amid anger over president's Charlottesville comments

An onlooker takes a photo of the Mar-a-Lago Resort as President Donald Trump is hosts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 11, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
An onlooker takes a photo of the Mar-a-Lago Resort as President Donald Trump is hosts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 11, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — A group raising money for Israeli emergency medical service Magen David Adom joined two other charities Thursday in shunning Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, amid simmering anger over the US president’s statements in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Virginia.

The American Friends of Magen David Adom announced Thursday night it had decided not to hold its 2018 fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, after the Cleveland Clinic and American Cancer Society also said they were canceling fundraisers at the glitzy Florida resort.

The group, which raises money for the MDA ambulance service in Israel, has been holding its annual gala at the resort since 2012.

Some 600 people attended the Palm Beach Celebration of Life gala on February 26, 2017, where the group raised $1.3 million, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Its spokesman, Erik Levis, gave no reason but said the decision came after “considerable deliberation.”

His statement noted the organization is “apolitical.”

The Palm Beach Celebration of Life Gala benefiting Magen David Adom — Israel's national EMS organization — was a…

Posted by American Friends of Magen David Adom on pirmdiena, 2017. gada 13. marts

The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment. The managing director of Trump’s properties in Florida, Bernd Lembcke, did not respond to a phone call seeking comment, either.

The president has drawn widespread and bipartisan criticism for his comments at a Trump Tower news conference where he insisted that “both sides” were to blame for violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville where a counterprotester was killed. The president dissolved two business councils after members who are CEOs began quitting.

The Cleveland Clinic said in a statement that it decided not to hold its annual event at his Palm Beach resort after “careful consideration” of a number of issues. It didn’t elaborate, but the Ohio-based hospital was already under pressure to shift venues.

Doctors, nurses and medical students of the hospital had signed a public letter earlier this year objecting to Mar-a-Lago given President Trump’s plans to cut funding for medical research and other policies.
The Cleveland Clinic has held its annual fundraiser at the resort for eight years.

Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove was a member of one of those panels designed to advise the president on the economy and jobs.

A few hours after the hospital pulled out, the American Cancer Society said it also planned to shift the venue of its annual fundraiser, called the 2018 Island of Palm Beach gala.

“Our values and commitment to diversity are critical as we work to address the impact of cancer in every community,” spokeswoman Miriam Falco said in a statement. “It has become increasingly clear that the challenge to those values is outweighing other business considerations.”

Falco declined to elaborate.

President-elect Donald Trump waves to members of the media after a meeting with admirals and generals from the Pentagon at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (AP/Andrew Harnik)
President-elect Donald Trump waves to members of the media after a meeting with admirals and generals from the Pentagon at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

The gilded and glittering Mar-a-Lago has been a favorite spot for holding charity events and a money maker for the Trump Organization. Dubbed the Winter White House, it is one of the few places in the area that can hold a large crowd. Its 20,000 square-foot ballroom has massive archways and columns decorated in gold leaf.

Palm Beach town records showed that 21 charities held events at Mar-a-Lago between last November and April, during the active social season.

But the resort has also become the site of protests by groups who oppose the president’s policies and statements.

The American Red Cross faced pushback in January, when demonstrators rallied outside its annual fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago as the worldwide humanitarian relief organization was offering aid to those affected by Trump’s moratorium on the US refugee program.

The organization did not immediately respond to questions about whether it plans to hold its fundraiser next year at the resort.
Some charities contacted by The Associated Press said they had no plans to change venues.

The Kravis Center said it plans to keep its annual wine auction at the Mar-a-Lago.

“The event has been held there for a number of years, and the folks supporting it want to continue to have it there,” spokesman Gary Schweikhart said.

This March 11, 2016, file photo shows the Mar-A-Lago Club, owned by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, in Palm Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
This March 11, 2016, file photo shows the Mar-A-Lago Club, owned by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, in Palm Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

The Palm Beach Police Foundation said in a statement that it plans to keep its annual ball at Mar-a-Lago because it is not a political event and no other venues in town can accommodate 700 guests.

The event raised $700,000 this year, according to town records, with the proceeds used to buy equipment for the Palm Beach Police Department, help its officers and families when they are in need, and provide scholarships for officers’ children. The foundation declined further comment.

Laurel Baker, executive director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, said in an email that “each organization should examine their mission statements to ensure that any fundraising efforts are not compromising their efforts.”

She said she is not implying that charities should shun Trump.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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