President-elect Donald Trump on Friday ejected from his West Palm Beach golf course one of his most critical biographers, Harry Hurt III, who had been preparing to play in a foursome with billionaire mega-donor David Koch.
Hurt is the author of “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump,” a 1993 book that revealed among other things that Trump was accused of “rape” by his ex-wife Ivana Trump in a sworn deposition during their divorce proceedings.
Donald Trump has denied the allegation, as well as other parts of the book, and Ivana Trump herself later said that she did not intend for her use of the word “rape” to be interpreted in “a literal or criminal sense.”
On Friday, Hurt approached Trump on the practice tee at Trump International Golf Club, and congratulated him on his victory in last month’s presidential election, according to an account that Hurt posted on Facebook on Saturday.
Trump responded by criticizing Hurt’s biography as untrue, to which Hurt replied “It’s all true,” according to both Hurt’s Facebook post and a transition official who was briefed on the incident, but did not want to be identified discussing a testy exchange involving the president-elect.
Trump told Hurt “you’re out of here,” according to the transition official, while Hurt wrote on Facebook that Trump told him it was “inappropriate” for him to play at the club.
David Koch could be reached for comment, and the Trump transition team declined to comment.
Hurt told POLITICO in an interview that he approached Trump “out of courtesy and respect for the office of the President of the United States … I support the office of the President of the United States, and I sincerely hope that Donald Trump will look after the interests of the United States with the same passion as he has looked after his business interests heretofore.”
The various accounts given to POLITICO diverge after the initial interaction between Hurt and Trump.
Hurt’s Facebook post says that Trump “had his security detail escort Hurt, Koch, and their playing partners to the parking lot,” and that Koch “was appalled,” and criticized Trump as “petty” and “vulgar.”
Another member of the Hurt-Koch foursome, fellow GOP donor John M. Damgard, told POLITICO that neither he nor Koch were privy to Hurt’s exchange with Trump, and that Hurt didn’t recount it to them in any detail.
“Harry just said he had been asked to leave,” said Damgard, a former president of the Futures Industry Association who has a house in Palm Beach. “I thought he was kidding. And then I learned that there had been some previous bad blood between them from back in the ‘90s apparently,” Damgard said, adding, “Unbeknownst to us, he had written a book or an article that was critical of Trump.”
So, Damgard continued, “rather than exacerbate something that wasn’t going to go very well, we just decided to get into the car and leave.”
A Koch associate told POLITICO that when Hurt returned from his exchange with Trump, he offered to take an Uber home and allow the rest of the foursome to continue playing without him.
“And David said, ‘No, we came as a foursome and we’ll leave as a foursome,’” said the Koch associate, who was briefed on the incident.
Koch is a member of the golf club, said his associate, adding that Koch and Hurt are “golfing buddies” who have “known each other for years.” The associate said that the final member of the foursome was someone invited by Hurt who boasts of having a scratch handicap and may have been giving golf lessons to the person.
The Koch associate said Hurt had only approached the president-elect “as a courtesy.”
And Damgard said, “Harry was with a young lady who was a friend and he thought it would be fun to introduce her to the president-elect.”
But the transition official described Hurt as “trying to instigate,” and said that, instead of leaving after the exchange with Trump, the biographer returned to his foursome as they waited to tee off.
“The course security actually had to go and tap him on the shoulder and tell him to leave,” said the transition official. Koch protested that Hurt was part of his foursome, said the transition official, who said that security informed Koch that he could either leave with Hurt or play without him.
Damgard denies this, saying, “We had no interaction with security.”
And Hurt told POLITICO “There was nobody tapping me on the shoulder, nobody forcing me out.” He said the reason he did not leave immediately after Trump asked him to do so was that “We had to go collect our stuff.”
Hurt said he posted his account on Facebook “to have a true factual narrative of what happened when I was there between Donald Trump and me.” He said “I knew that this story was going to get out and that there are a lot of people, such as the Trump transition people … who were going to take different facts and twist them and say things that were not true.”
But the transition official suggested Hurt was looking for publicity. “The courtesy would have been to just tee off with David Koch and keep to yourself,” said the official. “He could have easily teed off with Koch, and nobody would have said anything.”
Instead, Koch’s foursome left and played at Emerald Dunes, which Hurt described in his Facebook post as “a much, much better golf course than Trump International.”
Damgard, on the other hand, said that Trump’s West Palm Beach course is “one of [Koch’s] very favorite golf courses,” adding, “if he had thought that there would have been an incident, he would have done whatever he could to avoid it.”
The Koch associate said that Koch “will continue to golf” at the Trump course, and didn’t anticipate that the incident would pose any problems between Koch and the president-elect.
But Trump and Koch have recent history.
Koch, a billionaire industrialist, with his brother Charles Koch spearheads arguably the most influential network of donors and advocacy groups on the right. But the brothers sat out the presidential election out of distaste for both Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Charles Koch once likened the choice between Trump and Clinton to choosing between cancer or a heart attack. Trump in turn boasted that the Kochs could not influence him because he didn’t “want their money or anything else from them.”
When Trump and David Koch encountered one another last week at the president-elect’s luxury Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Trump referenced the brothers’ sitting out the campaign, according to a transition team source.