Donald Trump criticized rising Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday for his newfound support from a prominent GOP philanthropist who supports LGBT rights, hinting those views would be off-putting for conservatives.
Trump, who was recently knocked down from his perch as GOP front-runner by Ben Carson, made the remarks at New York City’s Trump Tower at a news conference promoting his book, “Crippled America.”
In response to a reporter’s question, Trump said Rubio — who’s rising in polls after a standout performance in the most recent Republican debate — is “overrated” and took the Florida senator to task for a no-show voting record in the U.S. Senate during his campaign for president.
“Marco is a sitting senator and he doesn’t show up for the people of Florida and I don’t think he should be doing that,” Trump said.
Trump, who also knocked Jeb Bush for his bungled attempt at using Rubio’s voting record against him in the Republican debate, also made a veiled criticism of GOP donor Paul Singer, who endorsed Rubio over the weekend.
“If you look at Mr. Singer, you have to see where he’s coming from,” Trump said. “When you see where he’s coming from, I think people are going to say, ‘Whoa, we didn’t know that.'”
Singer is a prominent Republican hedge-fund manager who supported Mitt Romney in 2012. His support is considered a major win for Rubio. But the philanthropist, whose son is gay, also supports LGBT rights.
In 2012, Singer founded the American Unity Fund and American Unity PAC. Both organizations seek to support conservatives who back LGBT rights. Singer has also contributed money to the Human Rights Campaign to combat homophobia and transphobia overseas and the Americans for Workplace Opportunity coalition to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
In addition to his support for LGBT rights, Singer has supported a version of comprehensive immigration reform that would lead to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Opposition to undocumented immigrants is the most unifying issue in the Republican presidential primary.
Never in his remarks did Trump explicitly say why Republicans would be unhappy with Singer. The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to clarify if where Singer is “coming from” is a reference to his support for LGBT rights. The American Unity Fund also didn’t respond to a request to comment on Trump’s remarks.
Trump has said he doesn’t support same-sex marriage, but hasn’t made opposition to LGBT rights a focus of his campaign and said passage of a U.S. constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage would be unrealistic. In 2000, Trump gave an interview to The Advocate in which he indicated support for gay rights and said he’d back amending the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation.