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My speech today at the NAHJ/NABJ

by Geraldo Rivera | Aug 05, 2016

After knowing and interviewing Donald Trump for decades and especially after spending every day for six weeks with him taping and broadcasting Celebrity Apprentice last year, I admit to feeling a sense of pride when my friend came gliding down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce that he was actually going to do it; run for President of the United States, something he’s been threatening for as long as I’ve known him.

On the air live on my radio show during the announcement, I cautioned everybody listening not to take his candidacy lightly, predicting right then and there that he would become the eventual GOP nominee. I was so confident because despite his obvious flamboyance, which causes establishment pundits to underestimate him, I know him to be smarter, sharper, and more competent than his public image.

He’s a supreme builder and a great dad, and besides all that, he is a movie star whose undeniable charisma crushed his dull, bland professional-politician opponents.

The sole discordant note, going back to his original announcement that he was running for the Oval Office, was his crazy comment slandering all undocumented Mexican immigrants as drug smugglers and rapists. It was so demonstrably inaccurate that I figured it was just a slip of the tongue.

And I called him immediately after and offered to take him to a Spanish restaurant where he could meet the immigrant owners, waiters and dish washers and apologize for painting this largely law abiding, enterprising population with such a toxic broad brush. He listened politely, but did not change either his mind or his position on the undocumented.

In fact, he doubled down, insisting in later speeches that he was going to build a great big wall along the southern border and that Mexico was going to pay for it.

But I still cut him slack because I think under the current political system you have to be half crazy to win the Republican nomination; so extremely Conservative that Mercy and Moderation become dirty words.

So in the weeks leading up to the Iowa Caucus, I was still confident that he was gaming the system, and that as soon as he got past Congressman Steve King and the other harsh, hard-liners, he would pivot back to being the reasonable, open-minded, inclusive New Yorker I have known all these years.

I even suggested to my colleagues at Fox News that if the majority of the American people actually wanted to waste tens of billions of scarce infrastructure dollars on a wall, instead of investing in bridges and highways, then have at it.

Remember, I covered El Chapo’s tunnel. If we want to spend a hundred billion to build a 100 foot wall, the immigrants will spend twenty bucks on a shovel or a 101 foot high ladder.

But the one thing I cannot get past, even given my friendship with Mr. Trump, is his pledge that, if elected he is going to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, even if they have been living otherwise law-abiding lives, and even at the cost of breaking up families with citizen children.

No amount of personal history or charisma can sugarcoat that inhumanity.

And, as I say whenever I am asked, there is no way I can vote for anyone, even a friend, who promises to do something so inherently antithetical to the traditions that make America Great, and yes, America is already great.

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