Trump and Andrés have been tussling since the GOP frontrunner announced his presidential ambitions in June and likened Mexican immigrants to “rapists.” “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said in his announcement speech.
That prompted Andrés, who emigrated from Spain, to back out of his plans to run the restaurant. He had signed a 10-year lease in the future Trump International Hotel, in the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Andrés joined big-name partners of Trump like Univision and Macy’s in severing ties with him after the comment, but Guajardo said in an interview the lawsuit is a bigger challenge for his longtime friend. That’s why he launched the campaign, his first foray into crowdfunding.
“The problem is that Macy’s and Univision have big legal departments, and they can weather these types of attacks easily,” Guajardo said. “José Andrés does not have a legal department. He does not spend his money on legal issues. He is dedicated to creativity, to talent.”
Andrés looms large in the District’s culinary scene, and he has built a small empire of his company, ThinkFoodGroup, which now owns 17 restaurants across the country. Andrés has been on the cooking TV shows “Iron Chef America” and “Top Chef,” made appearance on late-night TV and written a handful of cookbooks.
Just over 100 people had contributed about $8,700 by midday Thursday, 16 days after Guajardo started the page. The effort aims to raise $100,000, but Guajardo said the campaign isn’t really about the money.
“I guess my intention is to tell him he’s not alone, but more than to tell him, to tell anyone who wants to stand up to this racism, to this intolerance, that they’re not alone,” Guajardo said. “They shouldn’t fear the legal repercussions for taking a moral stance. The community will stand up with them.”
ThinkFoodGroup said in a statement at the time that running a Spanish restaurant in Trump’s hotel wouldn’t be viable, arguing that it would be saddled “with the burden of his inflammatory statements.”
“We had every intention of running a successful business that celebrates and welcomes people and cultures from around the world,” the company said.
Trump fired back late last month, as his company filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit in D.C. federal district court against ThinkFoodGroup.
The suit claims damages of more than $10 million, saying that opening the high-end hotel without its marquee restaurant is “indisputably harmful.” Plus, it says, Trump’s views were well-known before the deal was inked. A spokesperson for ThinkFoodGroup couldn’t immediately be reached Thursday; the company hasn’t yet filed a response to Trump’s allegations.
“Mr. Andrés’ offense is curious in light of the fact that Mr. Trump’s publicly shared views on immigration have remained consistent for many years, and Mr. Trump’s willingness to frankly share his opinions is widely known,” the filing says.