Barry Sternlicht dumps on Trump over Proud Boy remarks

Telling white supremacist group to “stand by” “literally empowers them,” Starwood boss says of president’s debate comments

Starwood Capital CEO Barry Sternlicht and President Donald Trump (left)(Getty; iStock)Starwood Capital CEO Barry Sternlicht (Getty; iStock)
Starwood Capital CEO Barry Sternlicht and President Donald Trump (Getty; iStock)

Starwood Capital Group’s Barry Sternlicht planned to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden even before watching Tuesday’s presidential debate.

But President Donald Trump’s response to a question about white supremacy — that the far-right extremist group known as the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by” — was a breaking point for the billionaire investor.

“The president’s comment mirrored his comment in Charlottesville that there were good people on both sides,” he told The Real Deal in an email this week, referring to the violent white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in 2017. “There are no good Nazis. Full stop.”

Sternlicht cited his family’s own struggles with violent anti-Semitism and said he believes Trump is provoking far-right extremists “so they can wreak havoc if he loses the election.”

“My father was a Holocaust survivor,” Sternlicht wrote. “America is the opposite of a country of racists and extremists, which sadly exist on both sides of the political spectrum. To tell the Islamaphobic, racist and anti-Semitic Proud Boys to ‘stand by’ literally empowers them.”

Sternlicht first commented on the president’s response during a panel held at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha conference on Wednesday.

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A day after the debate, Trump told reporters that he doesn’t “know who the Proud Boys are” and said “whoever they are, they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.” When asked if he denounces white supremacists, he said, “Any form of any of that, you have to denounce.”

Real estate bigwigs usually play their rhetorical cards close to the chest when it comes to presidential elections, preferring to let their wallets do the talking.

My father was a Holocaust survivor. America is the opposite of a country of racists and extremists, which sadly exist on both sides of the political spectrum.
Barry Sternlicht, Starwood Capital Group

Several industry executives, including Blackstone Group’s Stephen Schwarzman, developer Steve Witkoff and Red Apple Group’s John Catsimatidis, have donated to Trump’s campaign. So far, though, real estate players have donated more to Biden. In August, Related Companies’ Stephen Ross told The New York Times that he disagreed with the president’s climate policies and described Trump as “divisive.” He said, however, that he supports the president’s economic policies.

But Sternlicht, who describes himself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, also noted that he disagrees with Biden’s proposal to increase capital gains taxes, as part of a $4 trillion tax plan. Under the former vice president’s plan, capital gains taxes would be raised for those earning more than $1 million.

“We need to grow the economy, not slice up a shrinking pie,” Sternlicht said. “Why is the pie shrinking? Because our once great education system is failing for the very people we need to help most.”