Trump remains a clown, claims he fumigated Mar-a-Lago after HIV-positive Roy Cohn visited

The president made yet another problematic comment about HIV/AIDS—and we’re not even surprised anymore

New year, same circus.

For what it’s worth, U.S. President Donald Trump is at least consistent with his clownery, adding yet another homophobia-fuelled action to his record.

According to The Fixers, a new book by investigative journalists Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld, Trump allegedly fumigated all of the dishes and silverware at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, after the final visit of his friend and former attorney Roy Cohn in 1986, who by then was dying of AIDS-related illnesses.

Palazzolo and Rothfeld claim Trump told the story while dining with friends in late December 2016, three weeks before he assumed the presidency. That’s far, far too late in human history to be making distasteful jokes about HIV.

Here’s how the story goes: In 1986, Trump invited Cohn for “what seemed like a farewell dinner at Mar-a-Lago,” Newsweek reports. At the time, Cohn’s sexual orientation was deemed an open secret, and though he claimed to have fallen ill with liver cancer, Cohn was dying from AIDS-related illnesses. Trump allegedly went all out, decorating the dinner table with “ornate place settings” and “gold candelabra” to say goodbye to his dear friend and confidant.

Flash-forward 30 years: During a storytime session in 2016, Trump recalled the visit oh so fondly, telling his guests that after Cohn left he spent “a fortune to fumigate all the dishes and silverware.”

We’re not certain if Trump actually fumigated his dishes or just made a really, really bad joke. But if he did fumigate, Mr. President wasted a lot of $$$ (and should demand a refund): HIV, as we obviously know, cannot be transmitted through shared kitchenware.

Woman pursing her lips and widening eyes in disbelief

But truly, we’re not even surprised he told this story. Throughout his presidency, Trump has made some grand, problematic claims on HIV and AIDS-related topics. During a rally last summer, Trump said he would end the AIDS epidemic and childhood cancer if re-elected. He also said that under his administration, NASA will focus on Mars because the moon is “not so exciting”—because any and all grandiose promises go in the Trump administration. Sorry to this moon .


We need not forget that the Trump administration has also repeatedly tried to cut Medicare and Medicaid—programs that allow many Americans to afford PrEP and anti-HIV medications. And in 2017, six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned from their positions, claiming in an op-ed that “Trump doesn’t care about HIV.”

And for the record, Cohn was also an interesting personality: In the 1950s, he was the chief counsel to Senator Joe McCarthy during the Red Scare and subsequent investigations into alleged communists. He and McCarthy were also responsible for the firing of gay government workers. Cohn later came to represent Trump when the president was still a young developer growing his real-estate empire, and Trump even testified as a character witness in the ’80s, when Cohn was disbarred for a whole slew of ethical breaches. Two peas in a pod.

The White House has not yet responded to any media requests on the matter. We’re not holding our breath to hear back.

Man miming a hair flip

Arvin Joaquin is a journalist and editor. He was previously an associate editor at Xtra.

Erica Lenti

Erica Lenti is a deputy editor at Chatelaine and a former editor at Xtra.

Keep Reading

Job discrimination against trans and non-binary people is alive and well

OPINION: A study reveals that we have a long way to go to reach workplace equality for trans and non-binary people

The new generation of gay Conservative sellouts

OPINION: Melissa Lantsman’s and Eric Duncan’s refusals to call out their party’s transphobia is a betrayal of the LGBTQ2S+ community

Over 300 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills have been introduced this year. This doesn’t mean we should panic

OPINION: While it’s important to watch out for threats, not all threats are created equally. Some of these bills will die a natural death

Xtra’s top LGBTQ2S+ stories of the year

The best and brightest—even most bewildering—stories from a back catalogue brimming with insight