From stump to stump, controversy tends to follow GOP candidate Donald Trump. Most recently, hullaballoo manifested in the form of a prettified pachyderm named Essex. The female Asian elephant made an appearance at a campaign event in Sarasota, Florida, according to CNN and other news sources. Essex, owned by a Trump supporter named Frank Murray, displayed the campaign slogan “Trump: Make America Great Again” on her side. The message was written in chalk.
Reporter Adam Wright of CBS affiliate WINK posted a video of the pro-Trump tusker (sans tusks) via Twitter.
— Adam Wright (@AdamWINKNews) November 28, 2015
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune spoke with Frank Murray at Donald Trump’s campaign stop and Murray expressed his appreciation for the GOP frontrunner and his message.
“I’m doing this for love of America,” said Murray. “I’m a Trump fan. The man knows how to make money. He knows what America is all about and he can get America back on track.”
But although Murray’s support for his favorite presidential candidate was staged with care, news and pop culture outlet Gawker suggests that the Gainesville, Florida, animal enthusiast is not as diligent when it comes to the upkeep and protection of his animals. The site reports that Frank Murray was charged with four counts of animal cruelty in 1996, evading arrest until 2011. The original charges accused Murray of “inflicting unnecessary cruelty towards a living animal and not providing proper sustenance to a living animal.”
Murray has also faced criticism from groups including the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida after one of his elephants allegedly tested positive for tuberculosis in 2012. The animal’s death in 2014 was not publicly revealed until early 2015 following a public records request by ARFF. In a March, 2015, news release, ARFF also expressed concern that Murray’s other elephant had been exposed also to tuberculosis, raising the possibility that the animal might have presented a risk to members of the public during rides and public appearances. It should be noted that neither Gawker nor ARFF suggested that anyone ultimately contracted tuberculosis from either of Murray’s elephants.
Although the Trump campaign did not comment on the appearance by Essex or concerns regarding Frank Murray’s treatment of his animals, the mogul’s family apparently has some degree of big game, especially when it becomes to hunting trophy animals for sport. Amid the summertime flap over the killing of Cecil the Lion by a Minnesota dentist, photos surfaced of a 2012 hunting trip featuring Donald Trump’s son’s Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump. The Trump men posed with a number of their kills during their exploits, including a leopard and an African elephant. In one image from the expedition, Donald Trump, Jr. was photographed holding the tail that he had ostensibly cut off from the elephant’s carcass.
— Zimbabwe Today (@ZimToday) July 28, 2015
Among the various and sundry topics on deck during Donald Trump’s Florida appearances, the topic of animal cruelty did not feature prominently. Trump has been hitting back recently against accusations that he openly mocked a reporter’s physical disability during public remarks earlier in the week. The Republican standout is also actively working to stem an erosion of support in the polls, as noted in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll showing Donald Trump’s numbers have dropped by 12 points within a week. It’s an significant, yet unwelcome development for Trump, who has enjoyed top billing as the GOP frontrunner for most of the present election cycle.
[Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images]