President Trump faced criticism Thursday for pardoning conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, granting clemency to someone with a history of anti-LGBT and racist comments.
In 2014, D’Souza was charged and pleaded guilty to the felony using a “straw donor” — or making political contributions with another person’s name — to 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long. D’Souza was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house near his San Diego home, five years probation and fined $30,000.
Speaking with reporters on Air Force One Thursday, Trump insisted he doesn’t know D’Souza and pardoned him because “he was very unfairly treated.”
“And a lot of people did, a lot of people did,” Trump added. “What should have been a quick minor fine, like everybody else with the election stuff…what they did to him was horrible.”
The D’Souza clemency was the fifth presidential pardon for Trump, who has also pardoned Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio and former Vice President Richard Cheney’s Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
Trump also told reporters he was considering a pardon of Martha Stewart, who served time related to insider trading, and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojvich, who was sentenced to jail for allegedly attempting to sell the appointment of then-President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.
The pardon of D’Souza is a stick in the eye to former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who was removed at the start of the Trump administration and has been one of the president’s fiercest critics.
A look at the history of D’Souza — whose works include the widely panned 2016 film “Hillary’s America,” which criticizes the Democratic Party — reveals comments disparaging LGBT rights.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, D’Souza tweeted the ruling would have consequences for religious freedom.
As a consequence of the gay marriage ruling, the danger to religious freedom is not immediate, but it is very real–so we better get ready!
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) June 30, 2015
Oh great! Now we’re going to see a plethora of gay propaganda shoved in our faces #SCOTUSMarriage
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) June 26, 2015
As the U.S. Supreme Court considers the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in which a Colorado baker is asserting a First Amendment right to refuse to make custom-made wedding cakes for same-sex couples, D’Souza has tweeted Christians should have the right to refuse service based on religious beliefs.
A Christian forced to compromise his religious beliefs has no choice in the matter but a gay couple looking for a service can GO ELSEWHERE
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) April 1, 2015
A Christian baker should no more be forced to cater a gay wedding than a gay baker should be forced to cater a Christian wedding
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) April 1, 2015
TWO CLASSES OF CITIZENS: This gay baker case basically raises the question whether they have freedoms that count while we don’t
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) December 6, 2017
In his 2007 book “The Enemy At Home,” D’Souza said the terrorist attacks on September 11 were the result of growing acceptance of LGBT rights in the United States and “without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened.”
“Shortly after the fall of Baghdad, graffiti began to appear on the walls of the city and its environs. The following scrawl caught my attention,” D’Souza said. “‘Marriage of the same sex became legal in America. Is this, with the mafia and drugs, what you want to bring to Iraq, America? Is this the freedom you promised?’ Even if the source of this statement is of little consequence, the content is revealing. It is not an objection to freedom, but to the kind of freedom associated with drug legalization and homosexual marriage.”
D’Souza also chided gay people for continuing to support 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party despite its support for Muslims, whom he accused of having anti-LGBT views.
So are we still going to hear gay activists say they are more threatened by conservative Christians than radical Muslims?
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) June 12, 2016
Maybe gay activists will start to realize that playing with snakes–which is to say, coddling Islamic radicals–can be quite dangerous
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) June 13, 2016
I would really like to see these gays try their bullying tactics on MUSLIMS! Just to see what happens!
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) March 31, 2015
Obama & Hillary’s response to the #PulseShooting clearly conveys to gays they are less important than Muslims on the Democratic totem pole
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) June 15, 2016
When Trump faced criticism for his remarks to the Boy Scouts at its annual jamboree last year, D’Souza took to Twitter to lambast those critics for ignoring changes in policy making the organization gay inclusive.
When @realDonaldTrump speaks to the Boy Scouts it’s political but when the left shoves gay propaganda down their throats it’s educational
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) July 25, 2017
On transgender people, D’Souza this year sent out a poll via Twitter on the best approach to transgender people. The two options were “enabling their lifestyle” or “helping them overcome it.” The latter choice won by 90 percent.
Which is the best way to help transgender people?
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 24, 2017
Strikingly, D’Souza late last year also defended Adolf Hitler as “not anti-gay” on the basis that he “refused to purge gay Brownshirts from Nazi ranks.” The statement ignores the estimated 100,000 gay men targeted during the Nazi regime and sentenced to death in concentration camps in the Holocaust along with millions of Jewish people.
Hitler was NOT anti-gay. He refused to purge gay Brownshirts from Nazi ranks saying he had no problem as long as they were good fighters
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) October 6, 2017
At times, D’Souza also ridiculed public officials by implying they’re LGBT or referring to them as such in a derogatory manner.
After former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch filed a lawsuit against North Carolina over anti-LGBT House Bill 2, D’Souza tweeted out an image implying Lynch is a transgender version of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Anyone seen Eric Holder lately? I ask because he may have gone transgender on us and reemerged as Loretta Lynch pic.twitter.com/MLYjFC3Rvq
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) May 10, 2016
As the Daily Beast reported, D’Souza also shared a meme that implied former President Obama is a “gay Muslim” and former first lady Michelle Obama is a man.
I deplore this. Who is putting out these vile messages on social media? pic.twitter.com/HE09gYu2ar
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 13, 2018
D’Souza’s derogatory comments aren’t limited to LGBT people and Muslims. The commentator has also issued tweets widely criticized as racist and has questioned whether the Charlottesville white supremacist rally last year was a staged event.
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) August 18, 2017
YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO…Watch this vulgar man show his stuff, while America cowers in embarrassment pic.twitter.com/C9yLG4QoOK
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 18, 2015
Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at GLAAD, said in a statement D’Souza’s anti-LGBT history is in line with the Trump administration’s views.
“Dinesh D’Souza, who has blamed LGBTQ people in part for the tragic attacks on our nation on 9/11, may reflect the values of President Trump, but he does not reflect the values of this nation,” Stokes said. “There is simply no place in our discourse for this ignorance and hate that we hear all too often being espoused by members of the Trump Administration and its surrogates.”
Stephen Spaulding, chief of strategy and external affairs of Common Cause, said Trump’s pardon of D’Souza undermines democracy because the commentator knowingly broke the law — and his anti-LGBT history heightens the unfortunate nature of the act.
“Trump pardoned D’Souza for his willful and knowing violation of campaign finance laws – the laws that are intended to protect the integrity of our democracy,” Spaulding said. “D’Souza has a long history of disgraceful comments about the dignity of LGBTQ people. With his pardon, Donald Trump continues to send a strong signal that he will flout the rule of law to give special treatment to politically-connected people who are hostile to an inclusive America, from Sherriff Arpaio to Mr. D’Souza.”