Host of Trump fundraiser made racist comments in the workplace, former employee says in settled lawsuit

Xtreme Manufacturing owner and Ahern Rentals CEO and Chairman Don Ahern speaks at a campaign event for President Donald Trump at Xtreme Manufacturing in Henderson, Nevada, Sept. 13, 2020.

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Former President Donald Trump will be hosted at a fundraiser Saturday by a construction equipment magnate who was accused in a recent lawsuit of making racist remarks to his employees, according to legal filings reviewed by CNBC.

Trump is scheduled to attend the event in Las Vegas at the Ahern Luxury Boutique Hotel, which is owned by businessman Don Ahern. The tycoon and founder of Ahern Rentals is listed as a co-host of the event, with ticket prices for couples going for up to $844,600, according to an invitation obtained by CNBC.

In 2022, an employee who worked at Ahern Rentals for 17 years alleged in a lawsuit that he witnessed Don Ahern repeatedly make racist and bigoted statements in the workplace.

The plaintiff in the case, Mark Townsend, was terminated from his job at Ahern Rentals and his suit sought monetary damages “for lost income, lost benefits, lost earnings capacity, and other economic loss suffered by plaintiff,” according to the original complaint. There was no specific monetary value cited, and the case was settled out of court in July 2023.

Among Townsend’s allegations are that he heard Don Ahern say, “We don’t like hiring n——. They are dumb. They are just born that way.”

He also alleged that he heard Ahern say, “If it was up to me, I would get rid of all the n——, Mexicans, and women, because they’re useless.”

Ahern’s legal team said in a response filing that the construction CEO denied “each and every allegation contained in the complaint.”

Don Ahern did not respond to repeated requests for comment from CNBC.

A lawyer for Townsend did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment before publication.  

In May, another former Ahern Rentals employee also said under oath that Don Ahern had used racist language and that Ahern seemed to take issue with working with women.

Mohammed Sami Bakdash, who served as general counsel for Ahern and his companies for nearly a decade, until late 2023, testified during a deposition that he heard Ahern use this language near the end of his tenure at Ahern Rentals.

The deposition was part of a larger legal battle between Ahern Rentals and several companies that accuse Ahern Rentals of participating in a massive, multistate fraud scheme involving the distribution of mobile solar generators. The architect of the Ponzi scheme was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2021. But a group of companies sued Ahern Rentals in an effort to recover some of what they said was their lost money. That litigation is ongoing.

“Sir, within the last year or so before you left Ahern Rentals, did you hear Don Ahern use the N-word?” Bakdash was asked during the May 24 deposition.

“Yes, sir,” Bakdash replied.

Bakdash also testified that Ahern seemed to take issue with women in the workplace. “Towards the end of my tenure there, it seemed like he did not like … working with women,” the former Ahern legal advisor said in his deposition.

Bakdash was general counsel for Ahern until December 2023, according to his LinkedIn page. He did not respond to requests for comment from CNBC.

Townsend’s employment discrimination lawsuit was filed in October 2022. Two months later, United Rentals announced plans to acquire Ahern Rentals for $2 billion.

A political alliance

Trump and Ahern have been close allies for years.

Ahern, whose fortune is estimated at $1 billion, according to Forbes, hosted an indoor Trump rally during the 2020 campaign at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I believe that it is my patriotic duty to do what is right for our country, and what is right is supporting President Donald J. Trump,” Ahern said at a press conference after the September 2020 rally, held in Henderson, Nevada.

In 2021, Ahern donated $250,000 to a pro-Trump political action committee called Make America Great Again, Again, according to a Federal Election Commission record.

Trump has also been accused of using racist language, which he, too, has denied.

A former producer of the hit NBC show “The Apprentice” recently wrote that he heard Trump use the N-word when the show was being filmed. Trump’s campaign has denied the allegation.

Trump has also been trying to gain the support of Black voters, a voting bloc that has traditionally gone to Democrats in presidential elections.

After Trump was convicted of 34 criminal counts by a New York jury last month, his campaign surrogates courted Black voters.

“The reason we’re seeing so many African Americans come into the Trump campaign — two big reasons: jobs and justice,” Trump surrogate Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said on CNN.

Trump claims the criminal charges against him have boosted his popularity among Black voters.

“When I did the mug shot in Atlanta, that mug shot is No. 1,” Trump said at a gathering of Black conservatives in February. “You know who embraced it more than anyone else? The Black population.”

A battleground-state poll from The New York Times, Siena College and The Philadelphia Inquirer that was conducted in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin found that more than 20% of Black registered voters in those states supported Trump.

The survey was conducted between April 28 and May 9, and had an overall error margin for the combined states of 1.8%. Individual state polls had a sampling error of between 3.6% and 4.6%.

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