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Human Rights Campaign President Accuses Trump Of 'Pandering' To Voters


As the Republican National Convention got started this week, the party approved what's being called the most anti-gay Republican platform ever. Then, last night, Donald Trump said this.


DONALD TRUMP: As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.


MCEVERS: Even Trump seemed surprised at the crowd's reaction.


TRUMP: And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.


MCEVERS: On Twitter, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans described the moment as incredible and awesome. He tweeted, we witnessed a total transformation of the GOP tonight; no turning back now. But the head of another LGBT advocacy group was not at all moved by Trump's remarks. Chad Griffin is president of the left-leaning Human Rights Campaign.

CHAD GRIFFIN: This is 2016. We're beyond the time in our country where someone deserves praise for acknowledging that we exist and for saying that we shouldn't be murdered. We're beyond that. And I have to tell you, it's also - I think LGBTQ people across this country find it offensive because of the positions of the party that today he represents and because of his own positions, right? If his own positions weren't extreme enough, his choice of Mike Pence, who's truly been the face of anti-LGBT discrimination in this country, really underscored just what he thinks of LGBTQ people and our rights.

MCEVERS: Mike Pence, of course, governor of Indiana, who has supported a so-called religious freedom law in that state. I mean, do you see that these two can sort of reconcile what at least they're trying to put out there as kind of differing opinions on this?

GRIFFIN: No. I actually think what he's doing is what he's done time and time again in this election. He's pandering. He's pandering for his own, selfish, political advancement. Look, there are 10 million eligible LGBTQ voters in this country today. I think he is hoping that he can convince some of them that he is not as terrible as he actually is.

MCEVERS: You know, it's not just Donald Trump that was talking about LGBT issues at this convention. I mean, you had speakers like Ted Cruz saying things like, whether you're gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us. You had Peter Thiel, an openly gay Silicon Valley billionaire, talking about how he's proud to be gay and proud to be a Republican. I mean, I think we heard a lot of people saying this was a shift, at least for - publicly, for Republicans to come out and say these things, no?

GRIFFIN: Look, I think anyone can read words off a teleprompter. One should be judged by their public statements on these important issues. And one should be judged on their policy positions. What is Donald Trump going to do to ensure protections for LGBTQ people in this country as president? What justices is Donald Trump going to support - appoint to the United States Supreme Court? He said that he's going to appoint justices in the model of Justice Scalia. Justice Scalia, perhaps unlike any other federal judge on the bench, has attacked and maligned LGBT people, both from a legal perspective and just also his own views and descriptions of who we are as human beings.

MCEVERS: One thing that Peter Thiel did say when he was at the podium - he talked about the - the transgender bathroom debate. And he said, this is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares? And it wasn't just him speaking. I mean, after that, he was cheered.

GRIFFIN: Well, Kelly, I would - I would encourage Peter and others to spend time in states all across this country, states like North Carolina, where transgender people have been denied their fundamental right to have access to a restroom. That is not something that should be dismissed. And I think, quite frankly, it was a missed opportunity. I wish Peter and others who had that platform would have used the opportunity to really counter and highlight what they disagree with and highlight how much this party needs to evolve. Look, we work closely with Republicans, day in and day out. There are some amazing Republicans, people like Susan Collins or Governor Sandoval in Nevada. We might not agree on everything, but they have been our partners. None of those folks were even willing to be at that party convention.

MCEVERS: Chad Griffin is president of the Human Rights Campaign. Thank you so much.

GRIFFIN: Thank you, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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