In the final analysis, President Donald Trump’s foray into the Hamptons was much like his presidency: immersed in criticism and seemingly surrounded by haters. He nevertheless ended up with the biggest grin — and the money.
While pockets of protestors — reportedly about 80 on the Water Mill green — waited wearily for a glimpse and made impassioned speeches demanding an end to what they called Trump’s racist rhetoric, the President was outwardly oblivious to them, at one point doing crude imitations of South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and mimicking his accent.
Mostly though, he laughed and talked and yucked it up with the kind of supporters who build skyscrapers, manage billions of dollars, and find him compelling enough to make the trip east worth a reported $12 million in donations.
It started at the Stephen Ross estate on Shinnecock Bay, a tidy little luncheon for 60. Attendees — tickets ranged from $100,000 to $250,000 — laughed when Trump noted he had inadvertently drawn Ross into an unneeded controversy: His wife controls the Equinox and SoulCycle gym chains, and opponents of Trump sought to organize a boycott of those establishments.
“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others, and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions,” Ross said.
Meanwhile, both Equinox and Soul-Cycle released statements distancing the companies from the event and Ross himself.
Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle, said “SoulCycle in no way endorses the political fundraising event being held later this week . . .”
Trump’s arrival at Francis S. Gabreski Airport on Sunday, August 11, in Westhampton Beach received a warm welcome from Congressman Lee Zeldin, a strong ally, and his wife, Diana, and traveled to the Ross estate via limo. The Secret Service, Southampton Town Police, New York State Troopers, and Suffolk County law enforcement combined to limit traffic in the areas around the motorcade, and local police said the effort went smoothly.
Trump and his entourage then headed for the Bridgehampton enclave of the builder Joe Farrell dubbed Sandcastle, where Trump waxed poetic at some length, even promising some action on the gun control issue. Rudy Giuliani and Andrew Giuliani, who live nearby, attended, as did Joe Piscopo, Geraldo Rivera, Estée Lauder billionaire Ronald Lauder, Vornado founder Steve Roth, Senator Lindsey Graham, Richard Le Frak, and Ed Cox. And of course, there were Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle — the couple recently bought a house nearby.
Sandcastle, at this point, needs no introduction: Farrell’s $40-million play toy, at 612 Halsey Lane, is 17,000 square feet, with more bells and whistles than a fleet of fire engines. It features a movie theater, bowling alley, walk-in refrigerator, wine room, climbing wall, basketball court, private gym, and spa. “Yes, I have my own baseball field,” Farrell answered to a press query. Halsey Lane was closed most of the day in anticipation of Trump’s arrival, which was pushed back to after 3 PM.
“It’s an incredible honor, the biggest in my life,” Farrell said about hosting President Trump. “So far, we have 45 people who paid $35,000 to take their picture with him.”
Trump boasted that he was well liked in the Hamptons and enjoyed coming here. In fact, though he did carry Suffolk County in the election, he lost decisively in the Hamptons. The Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said at the lunch, “The support for our President is unprecedented and growing.”
Guests dined on a buffet lunch of sirloin steak, shrimp with lemon chili, and charred broccoli. Trump left at about 5 PM for a short trip to New Jersey, where he will stay at his golf resort in Bedminster. He is not on vacation, he stressed, correcting the “fake news” — the White House is being refurbished.
But outside the gilded gates of Sandcastle, the prevailing sentiment was summed up by demonstrators who chanted, “Stop the violence, stop the hate.” One sign carried by a roadside demonstrator read, “Send Him Back.”