Hamilton controversy distracts from Trump University lawsuits


by Jesse Goodwin, Staff Writer

On the night of November 18, Vice President-elect Mike Pence was greeted with a mixture of boos and cheers when he arrived at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City with his daughter and their cousins to see the acclaimed musical Hamilton, which depicts the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

After the show, actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, addressed Pence directly during the curtain call, raising his concerns over the incoming Trump administration.

“You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening,” he said to laughter from the audience. “And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out.”

As he pulled a piece of paper from his pocket, Dixon encouraged the audience “to pull out your phones, and tweet, and post, because this message needs to be spread far and wide.”

“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do,” Dixon said to applause.

“We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”

The next morning, President-elect Donald Trump responded via a series of tweets in which he criticized the cast of the musical for “harassing” Pence and called for an apology.

He continued to draw attention to the controversy the next day, when he again tweeted about it and told reporters that Dixon’s remarks were “very inappropriate,” even as Pence told CBS’s Face the Nation that he wasn’t offended by them.

Trump’s behavior served as a distraction from his recent 25 million dollar settlement of two lawsuits alleging that Trump University, a for-profit education company that he operated from 2005 to 2010, was a scam.

Trump reportedly pocketed millions from the company, which enrolled around 10,000 students in schools that offered real estate training seminars.

Both lawsuits allege that students did not receive benefits advertised by the company.

During Trump’s campaign, he often claimed that he would not settle the lawsuits and boasted of a 98 percent approval rating from former students. “Do you know that almost everybody in the lawsuit has signed a letter saying how great the school was? That’s why I won’t settle because it’s an easy case to win in court,” Trump told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in February.

However, one of the lawsuits alleges that the surveys from which the approval rating was determined were not anonymous and were filled out during or immediately after the seminars, when participants expected to receive future benefits from the program.

Trump tweeted about the settlement the day before Pence attended Hamilton, claiming that he “settled the Trump University lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country.” He has not addressed it since.

The settlement was announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on November 18, ten days before one of the cases — a federal class action lawsuit in San Diego — was set to be heard by a jury.

Schneiderman called it “a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university” in a written statement.

“Donald Trump fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals and refusing to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university,” Schneiderman added.

“Today, that all changes.”

If the case were held, Trump would have become the first president-elect to stand trial. A week before the trial was set to begin, a court document filed by Trump’s lawyers requested time to “allow the president-elect to focus on the enormous responsibility of transitioning to the most demanding and important office in our government” and for the court to allow Trump to testify by video.

There has been speculation among many in the media, which has covered the Hamilton controversy extensively, that it was calculated by the president-elect as a distraction from the lawsuits. Others argue that he is “thin-skinned.”

“It’s off-base to ascribe an intent to deflect in these Hamilton tweets,” Gabriel Kahn, a journalism professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication, told the Washington Post. “They are entirely consistent with the thin-skinned, petulant character of the president-elect.

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Photo Courtesy: Dailydot

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