Donald Trump Jr. flew into Boise on Thursday to attend a fundraiser for his father’s presidential campaign, and also defended his controversial Twitter post comparing Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles, blaming the media and political correctness for the outcry over the post.
“I thought it was a good metaphor, and that’s all it is,” Trump Jr. said. “It is simply a metaphor for risk and probability, and we have to be careful about those things.”
He added, “I didn’t call people poisonous. … Our opponent called 100 million Americans deplorables.”
His Monday post, which drew intense social media backlash, showed a picture of a bowl of Skittles candy, with the caption, “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” Trump Jr. added, “This image says it all. Let’s end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first.”
Mars Inc., which manufactures Skittles, responded with a Twitter post saying, “Skittles are candy; refugees are people. It’s an inappropriate analogy. We respectfully refrain from further comment, as that could be misinterpreted as marketing.”
Trump Jr. said Thursday he doesn’t want to become a distraction from his father’s campaign, but he expressed no regrets.
“If a metaphor offends someone, I can understand that and maybe that’s the world in which we live today,” he said. “But I’m not comparing someone to candy, I’m using it, it’s a statistical thing. We have to be careful who we let in this country. You’ve seen what’s going on in Europe, you’ve seen what’s going on. And this is not just about terrorists, this is about the rape statistics that have gone on there. We have to be able to know who we’re coming into our country, and we owe that to our children and grandchildren.”
The younger Trump spoke to between 75 and 100 donors Thursday morning at a private jet hangar near the Boise airport, as part of a series of stops around the West.
“It’s really nice to be in a state where we’re up by 50, I believe,” he said. “It shows you how little I know about politics, because you probably shouldn’t spend that much time in a state where you’re up by 50, but I think we just want to thank the people who’ve been so supportive of everything that we’ve done.”
Layne Bangerter, Idaho director for the Trump campaign, said the previous stop was in Salt Lake City and the next would be in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Trump Jr. told reporters, “I love making it out west. I always joke that I’m the first graduate of the Wharton School of Finance to move to Colorado to be a bartender. I did that for about a year and a half right after school, so I love the West. I love the Western states. I’m a big outdoorsman.”
There was no minimum charge for donors to attend; they included Idaho first lady Lori Otter, several state legislators and others Bangerter described as “people not in politics, just donors.”
Across the street, just under two dozen protesters, mostly Hillary Clinton supporters but also some holding signs backing Libertarian Gary Johnson, chanted slogans including “Idaho is too great for hate.”
Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates said Trump Jr.’s message to the donors expressed “some very clear and articulate conservative views, and I think given the kind of campaign that we’ve been through, it was a real net plus for the party.”
Ted Cruz won Idaho’s GOP presidential primary with 45.4 percent; Trump took second place with 28.1 percent.
But Trump Jr. told reporters he and his father have “broken away from conservative dogma a little bit” on public lands.
“We want to make sure that public lands stay public,” he said. “I’m a big outdoorsman, I’m a big hunter. When I lived out here, that’s what I hunted on, public land, and I want to make sure that the next generation has that ability to do that.” He said if federal lands were transferred to state control, they could be sold off when a state has a budget shortfall, “and then all of a sudden, you never have access to those lands ever again.”
Trump Jr. attributed the fuss over his Skittles Twitter post to the media using “a different standard” to cover conservatives.
“I’ve gotten used to the fact that it’s not a fair fight and it won’t be,” he said.
Bangerter, who is traveling with Trump Jr. for several days, said he didn’t know what all the stops on the trip would be, but he was glad Idaho was among them.
“We’ve attracted a lot of attention from the Trump campaign, and there’s a lot of energy in Idaho,” he said.