Former President Donald Trump is defending his decision to host a Saudi-backed LIV golf tournament at his New Jersey club this weekend despite protests from families who say the kingdom’s alleged ties to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks make the event shameful.
A group of families impacted by the attacks, known as 9/11 Justice, is running ads that rip into Mr. Trump and other participants at the Bedminster tourney. They also plan to protest on-site.
They say it is especially painful to see the event being held only 50 miles from Ground Zero.
“Well, nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately, and they should have,” Mr. Trump told ESPN ahead of the tourney. “I can tell you that there are a lot of really great people that are out here today, and we’re going to have a lot of fun, and we’re going to celebrate, and money’s going to charity. A lot of money is going to charity. And you have, really, the best players in the world.”
The tournament kicks off Friday and is expected to feature big names, such as Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
The Saudi-backed LIV circuit has opened up a deep rift with the PGA tour and a debate around “sports-washing,” in which governments with questionable track records clean up their image through glitzy events and big payments to athletes.
“I’ve known these people for a long time in Saudi Arabia, and they’ve been friends of mine for a long time. They’ve invested in many American companies, they own big percentages of many, many American companies and frankly what they’re doing for golf is great. What they’re doing for the players is so great, the salaries are going to go way up,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump said the PGA Tour was not loved by a lot of the players for a long time and LIV is offering signing bonuses and big prize money.
“Now they have an alternative and nobody would have ever known there was going to be a gold rush like this,” Mr. Trump said.