“Donald Trump” and “protecting patients’ access to health care” are two phrases that aren't generally associated with each other. But that fact didn't seem to bother the American Cancer Society (ACS), which hosted its fundraiser Rock Palm Beach at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago this past Friday night.
The fete, which was billed as a “fun-filled musical event full of lavish food stations with great music... and surprise guests” asked $550 for the lowest-priced tickets. Miami pop artist Romero Britto and Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm were in attendance.
Michelle Jaminet, an American Cancer Society organizer for the event, told New Times the fundraiser is a nonpartisan event. According to her, the organization chose Mar-a-Lago because of the limited number of options available to host large gatherings on the island of Palm Beach. The event has been held at Mar-a-Lago for several years, and this year's edition was booked more than a year ago, prior to the results of the election, she added.
President Trump wasn't expected to be in attendance despite his plans to spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe.
Asked about the American Cancer Society's position on the Affordable Care Act, Jaminet referred New Times to Ray Carver, a spokesman for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which works to research cures for cancer and to litigate issues regarding the treatment of cancer patients. Carver said the organization’s position — and therefore the American Cancer Society’s position – on the Affordable Care Act is as follows: “We can’t have the Affordable Care Act repealed unless there is something equal to or greater than it simultaneously enacted. We look at these issues through the lenses of the cancer patients. That’s our driving force behind these issues.”
Xeni Jardin, a journalist and founder of the group blog Boing Boing, as well as a breast cancer survivor and an activist for the rights of cancer patients, voiced concerns over the optics of holding an event that is supposed to benefit cancer patients at a venue owned by a man who wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “I think it’s disgusting,” Xeni told New Times. “It seems callous and out of touch."
Lori Stoll, the honorary chairwoman of the gala, recently told the Palm Beach Post: “We are ready to party,” regardless of whether there is added security because of the president’s visit. Jardin took offense to Stoll's comment, saying, “I don’t know if we’re talking about the same disease here. I think to say that about cancer is shockingly out of touch. There are many places to host a fundraiser... To reward a man who has threatened to take away my ability to get cancer treatment... It’s kind of like dancing with the Devil.”
Jardin believes the ACS should boycott Trump because he does not seem to have a reverence for science or medical research. “The president talks about anti-vaccination... Everything he stands for is the opposite of what patients like me need.”
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Responding to Jardin's sentiment, Carver said, “The American Cancer Society has to make business decisions based on a variety of factors... There has not been a specific policy proposal made about it to date. But when there is, we’ll have to be looking at it through the lens of cancer patients and make a determination on our position on it. So until there is a specific policy proposal... we don’t know.” Regarding the event at Mar-a-Lago, he continued, “We pay to be there. The fact of the matter is that the ACS has a contract with Mar-a-Lago.”
But Jardin isn't buying it. “Bullshit," she said. "It is so out of touch with the day-to-day lives of people like me who are trying not to die... The organization is supposed to stand for the dignity and right to life of cancer patients. To say it's nonpartisan is a foolish thing to say.”
Reached for comment, Romero Britto offered a nonpartisan statement of his own: “Cancer is a terrible disease. Millions of people are dying around the world due to this disease. I hope... we can raise a ton of money for cancer research. I am happy that my art is an instrument to help others.”