PHOENIX – A controversial billboard depicting President Donald Trump as a Nazi was funded with taxpayer dollars and was commissioned by an “arts advocate” paid by a U.S. city to “diminish barriers,” records obtained by Judicial Watch reveal. The massive billboard caused a ruckus when it was unveiled in downtown Phoenix, Arizona in mid-March because it features a menacing portrait of Trump surrounded by mushroom clouds—in the shape of laughing clowns—and swastikas modified as dollar signs. A pin of a Russian flag appears on the president’s lapel.
The huge display towers over Grand Avenue and Taylor Street in downtown Phoenix and will remain there throughout Trump’s presidency, according to the local art gallery that claims to own it and conveniently omits that public money is involved. A multitude of local and national media outlets covered the controversy surrounding the artist that created it and the contentious image it portrays, but all have failed to uncover the important fact that taxpayer dollars are behind it. Instead, the media has reported that the Trump Nazi billboard was commissioned by the billboard owner, Beatrice Moore, a longtime patron of the arts on Grand Avenue. Moore’s deep ties to the city and the cash she receives for her various public art endeavors have remained secret. The news reports have also focused on the death threats that the artist, Karen Fiorito, has received. A local paper reported that the billboard went up during an annual art event and that the artist aimed to stir up a controversy.
Mainstream national media also failed to report the important fact that taxpayer dollars contributed to the offensive billboard. The Washington Post opted to serve as a mouthpiece for Fiorito’s anti-Trump tirade. In a piece published days after the billboard controversy hit the artist calls Trump supporters “scumbags” and says the country is on a “very dangerous path” toward “total annihilation.” A California news outlet focused on Fiorito’s death threats and her interpretation of the art, which “represents global destruction, warfare and annihilation of the planet.” The dollar swastikas represent “corporate power and greed and how our society has become all about money and corporatism,” the artist says in the story.
Shortly after the billboard was erected Judicial Watch filed a public records request with the city of Phoenix to obtain details related to public monies connected to organizations and organizers of the sign. This week Judicial Watch received the documents that show the city of Phoenix has awarded Moore, the Trump Nazi billboard owner and a prominent figure in the local art community, thousands of dollars in grants for a program she runs called Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation (GAP), which encompasses the Art Detour event where the Nazi billboard made its debut. The publicly funded annual art celebration is touted as having “a diverse slate of activities created by local artists and art venues to celebrate the growing, vibrant Phoenix arts scene” and is described as “…one of the most important events in Phoenix’s calendar” by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. The event is produced by a group called Artlink, which was founded by Moore, in partnership with the city of Phoenix. Former Phoenix Deputy City Manager Rick Naimark, who retired in 2015 with a hefty pension, sits on the board of Artlink.
Moore and her various publicly-funded art enterprises received $3,500 from the city of Phoenix in July 2016, the records obtained by Judicial Watch show, which encompasses the March 2017 Art Detour event that kicked off with the Trump Nazi billboard. In August 2016 Artlink, founded by Moore, was awarded $1,800 for the 2017 Art Detour event, according to the records. Moore, who contracted Fiorito to create the anti-Trump billboard, is recognized by the city as an “artist, community organizer and arts advocate” and the annual festival she puts together with public money aims to “diminish barriers,” the records say. Funds come from “government grant monies,” including the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the money is used for “artists’ fees.” The objectionable Trump billboard, which involves taxpayer money, doesn’t appear to promote a “growing, vibrant” art scene in the City of Phoenix and seems to fall short of Moore’s stated goal of “diminishing barriers” through art.