The Cleveland Clinic's Florida campus will not host its annual fundraiser gala at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach next year, an event it has held there for eight consecutive years and that typically raises about $1 million for the hospital's equipment and programs.
"After careful consideration, Cleveland Clinic has decided that it will not hold a Florida fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago in 2018," the hospital said. "We thank the staff at Mar-a-Lago for their service over the years."
Businesses have been under pressure to distance themselves from Trump after he said Tuesday that "both sides" bore some responsibility for the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va. involving white supremacist and nationalist protesters and their counter-protesters last weekend. At the protest, a man with Nazi sympathies drove a car into counter-protesters, wounding 19 people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The protesters were in Charlottesville to demonstrate their removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters reportedly were carrying clubs, a move Trump pointed to as an example of how there was "blame on both sides."
Eileen Sheil, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland Clinic, would not say whether those comments influenced the hospital's decision, saying only that they "considered a number of factors." The Cleveland Clinic is considered one of the country's best hospitals, with locations in Florida, Virginia, and Ohio.
It already had been under pressure to move its event by healthcare providers who oppose Trump's aim to repeal and replace portions of Obamacare and other groups who protest his budget proposal to cut research funding from the National Institutes of Health. An open letter signed by nearly 1,700 doctors, medical students and patients says that holding such a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago is "unacceptable," saying it "symbolically and financially supports a politician" with those goals.
The Cleveland Clinic said last week, before the violence in Charlottesville, that it would not change its fundraiser. Sheil said it had been scheduled for Feb. 24, 2018, and a new location and date hasn't been selected.
David Fahrenthold, a journalist for the Washington Post who has reported on the club's dealings, said on Twitter that these types of events typically cost between $100,000 and $275,000.
Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, was part of the White House's Strategy & Policy Forum, a group that Trump said he would dissolve "rather than putting pressure" on business leaders as various CEOs began exiting another one of his councils, focused on manufacturing. The group had reportedly decided to dismantle before Trump made the announcement but wanted to tell the White House before making its decision public.