A Donald Trump fan and alleged animal abuser brought (or, rather, forced) an unusual guest to the candidate’s rally on Saturday: an Asian elephant.
The elephant, according to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, belongs to Frank Murray, a circus elephant exhibitor who “is such a big Trump fan he decided to donate the free use of his elephant for the campaign event.”
“I’m doing this for love of America,” said Murray, who lives in the Gainesville area. “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.”
Murray owns at least one Asian elephant under the company name “Elephant Walk,” and travels around the country renting them for events, renaissance fairs and circuses. Documents show that an elephant owned by Murray who died last year tested positive for tuberculosis, a disease that commonly crops up in captive elephants, who often inhale particles of excrement infected with the disease. Murray’s elephants were temporarily banned from entering several states, for fear that they would infect other animals.
In 1996, Murray was charged with four counts of animal cruelty for “inflicting unnecessary cruelty towards a living animal and not providing proper sustenance to a living animal.” A warrant was issued for his arrest, which he evaded for 16 years. Murray was finally arrested in New Jersey in 2011, according to the animal welfare group Born Free. After the arrest, the Piccadilly Circus severed its contract with Murray, who had previously loaned it elephants for performances.
In recent posts on the company’s Facebook page, spokesperson Lauryn Murray has repeatedly called for her supporters to oppose bullhook bans, or pieces of legislation meant to outlaw the use of sharp metal sticks that are used in circuses to corral elephants. Several states have already passed their own bullhook bans.
Trump has had to deal with a media frenzy involving an elephant before—one that was no longer living. After a photo surfaced showing Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., standing over the carcass of an elephant he’d shot and holding its tail, Trump senior defended the kill.
“My sons love to hunt,” Trump said, according to The Telegraph back in July, cautioning that he isn’t “necessarily in favor” of shooting rare or endangered animals. “They are members of the NRA, very proudly. I am a big believer in the Second Amendment. But my sons are hunters, Eric is a hunter and I would say he puts it on a par with golf, if not ahead of golf. My other son, Don, is a hunter. They’re great marksman, great shots, they love it. I em, like golf. I don’t do that.”
It probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Trump is linked to an elephant owned by an accused animal abuser, though. After years of public outcry and an investigation that revealed employees beating elephants with metal hooks, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced last March that it would finally retire all its circus elephants. Trump, true to form, said he’d never attend the circus again.
Ringling Brothers is phasing out their elephants. I,for one, will never go again. They probably used the animal rights stuff to reduce costs— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2015
Repeated calls to Frank and Lauryn Murray, as well as to the Trump campaign, were not returned at press time. We will update this story when we hear back.
Update 1:54 p.m.
Lauryn Murray told Gawker in a message that the elephant at the Trump rally is named Essex. She has not yet responded to a question about the allegations against Frank Murray.
“I was raised with her, she has been a part of my family for 35 years,” she said.