Tenants of New York City housing who were featured in a video at the Republican National Convention said they were not made aware how the video was going to be used, according to The New York Times.
Three of the four people featured in the video told the Times that they were misled into appearing before the convention. The video was used to criticize New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who also sought his party’s nomination, and his handling of public housing, and to attribute funding and improvements to the Trump administration.
“I am not a Trump supporter,” Claudia Perez told the Times in an interview. She said she was upset about the deception but stood by her criticisms of the city’s housing issues.
Lynne Patton, who is a Department of Housing and Urban Development official overseeing the region including New York and New Jersey, told a tenants’ group leader at the New York City Housing Authority she wanted to speak to tenants about the poor condition of buildings, the Times reported. Perez was reached by another leader, Carmen Quiñones, to join the interview.
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Patton questioned the tenants for more than four hours, and only afterward were they told the video was for the Republican Party, without letting on that it would be part of the convention, Perez told the Times. Patton denied that she misled the participants in a statement to the outlet.
“Each participated regardless of political party because they recognized the importance of having a voice on the national stage and the undeniable improvements that have transpired under this administration,” Patton said.
Patton spoke during the 2016 Republican National Convention and was also vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.
Patton said in her statement that the White House had reviewed the video and cleared it of any potential violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal government employees from engaging in partisan political activities. But Patton’s statement means that White House employees would have participated in planning for the convention.
Patton herself was warned about Hatch Act violations by the Office of Special Counsel last year, CNN reported, over social media activity. She also posted on Facebook earlier last year that “I honestly don’t care anymore” whether a retweet from her professional account violated the Hatch Act.
This year’s Republican National Convention was highly criticized for its use of the White House as a backdrop for political speeches and the inclusion of officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as key speakers.
The tenants who were surprised by their inclusion were not the only people featured in videos during the convention who said they weren’t given a heads up. Two of the five new citizens featured in a naturalization ceremony video streamed during the convention said also they didn’t know it would be shown.
Sudha Narayanan and Neimat Awadelseid told the Wall Street Journal that not only were they not told the ceremony would be shown during the convention on Tuesday night, but they were not informed Trump would be attending the ceremony until just before it started. The two said they did not mind being shown in the video.
Manny Martinez, who was featured in the housing video, told the Times “This was not an endorsement of Trump.”
Quiñones told the Times that she wished she had been told how the video would be used ahead of time, and that she plans to vote for Joe Biden in November. She said she realized the video was being made for the Republican Party after questions had already begun. She decided to use the opportunity to discuss housing issues under de Blasio.
“For me, this was not about party, but for us to make the national stage. They were the only ones that offered. My own party didn’t offer,” Quiñones said.
De Blasio’s press secretary Bill Neidhardt tweeted on Thursday that the video “is a cynical attempt to pit Black Americans against immigrants. It’s wrong.”
“After decades of disinvestment, Mayor de Blasio has made historic investments in” the New York City Housing Authority, Neidhardt said.
Patton tweeted after the publication of The New York Times’ report that the outlet was “blatantly & biasly disparaging a video that celebrates the undeniable improvements and increased funding made to the largest & most distesssed public housing authority in the country under this Administration.”
She claimed that each of the residents included in the video had thanked Trump and the “RNC platform” in unused portions of their interviews, and that she “showed the video – in full – to the resident organizer PRIOR to its airing & was told by them that it was ‘amazing’ & ‘wholly accurate.'”
As usual, shame on the @nytimes & @matthewhaag for blatantly & biasly disparaging a video that celebrates the undeniable improvements and increased funding made to the largest & most distesssed public housing authority in the country under this Administration. Shocker. 🙄
— 🇺🇸 Lynne Patton (@LynnePatton) August 28, 2020
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Report: Tenants say the were not aware they would be in RNC video