Is Jeff Greene, the billionaire Democratic candidate for Florida governor, a member of President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in West Palm Beach?
It’s a question that is starting to haunt the candidate in his push to get the Democratic nomination in the August 28 primary.
In the final Democratic gubernatorial debate on Thursday, Greene was attacked by fellow candidates on his perceived connections to the President, a toxic figure in Democratic circles. Asking about how candidates would stand up to the President, moderator Todd McDermott asked Greene point blank: “How will you do so when you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of dues to President Trump’s Mar-A-Lago club?”
Greene brushed off the question, saying: “Well I don’t pay hundreds of thousands for any club,” and then moved on.
The following day, on Friday, Greene appeared on a panel with editorial page editors of the Miami Herald, the Sun-Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. WLRN is a partner in the event, although unlike the newspapers it will not be endorsing any candidate after the interviews are conducted. During the interview he was pressed about the status of his membership at Mar-A-Lago and signaled that he is not certain about his membership status.
“I don’t believe I am a member anymore because I haven’t -- you get dues -- I haven’t paid any dues,” he said. “I haven’t got a bill for dues, the last bill was over a year ago.”
Greene’s past comments and history have brought the issue into the open. He used the club as a staging ground for a campaign photo shoot. And an ad released by his campaign in June claimed to show him confronting Trump inside of the club.
“I walked by and he screamed, he pointed at me: ‘Jeff Greene!’ Really loud. And, of course, everybody looks up,” Greene explained to Palm Beach Daily News about the alleged confrontation. “And he starts ranting and raving: ‘You went against me in the media during the campaign!’ Over and over again. ‘You support Hillary Clinton!’ The whole room is staring at this, where the guy is unhinged, turning red, flailing his arms. And so my wife starts videoing it. And he was going on and on.”
Greene’s version of events have not been independently verified and the video included in the ad does not include any audio.
A Mar-a-Lago staff member told WLRN he was not authorized to discuss membership. A call to the General Manager’s office was not immediately returned.
However, one of Greene’s own staffers contradicted the candidate last month.
“He intends to keep his membership as long as he’s allowed,” campaign spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren told Palm Beach Daily News. “There are many folks that wish they could walk right up to Donald Trump and tell him exactly what they think. That’s why he intends to keep his membership.”
During the Thursday debate, Orlando businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine hung on the fact that Greene called Trump “a great guy” after he was elected President.
“My God,” Levine told Greene, “you went on and said he was a ‘great guy.’ A great guy after that election where he literally mocked disabled people. He insulted every woman in America. Matter of fact, he did worse than that. He told [Arizona Senator] John McCain that he wasn’t a war hero, told him he was a coward."
The day before the 2016 election, Greene went on CNBC and said that he was “scared to death to have Donald Trump as my president.”
Greene said that he only intended any compliments to the president to be taken in a conciliatory, bipartisan way.
“I did exactly what President Obama did, what Hillary Clinton did the same day. And I said we have to stand behind our new leader,” Greene said.