Trump tees up medal for Tiger Woods; some question motives
WASHINGTON (AP) — If there were a Mount Rushmore for golfers, Tiger Woods would probably be on it.
But President Donald Trump's decision to award the nation's highest civilian honor to Woods has raised questions about whether the president should be boosting the profile of a business associate of The Trump Organization.
Trump planned to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Woods during a White House ceremony later this evening. The president announced his intention to do so after Woods won the Masters Tournament last month, capping a remarkable recovery from injury and years of personal troubles that had left some wondering whether he would ever win again at the professional level. Woods earned his 15th major golf championship with his Masters win and his 81st overall on the PGA Tour, both ranking second.
Trump understood the importance of the moment to golf and its fans, tweeting that he was awarding Woods the medal because of his "incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE."
Trump has been using Woods' cachet to attract fans to his properties for decades. Trump got Woods to show up at his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, N.J., a day after the golfer's first Masters victory in 1997. The place was mobbed. Two thousand fans showed up as Woods walked down a 320-foot red carpet, some of them storming steel barricades to get a closer look.
Trump has also struck business deals with Woods.
Golfers at Trump's club in Doral, Fla., can stay at the Tiger Woods Villa. At a ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2014, Woods lavished praise on the future presidential candidate, calling changes he made to the club "phenomenal."
In Dubai, Woods designed an 18-hole course to be managed by The Trump Organization.
The Trump Organization has "repeatedly demonstrated their ability to successfully manage unique, high-end courses and golf clubs, and this is no exception," Woods said in a 2018 interview in the company's in-house magazine.
Ethics officials have criticized Trump for not selling off his assets completely and holding the money in a blind trust. Instead, he set up a trust to hold his assets, handed day-to-day management responsibilities to two sons and hired an ethics lawyer to vet business deals. Trump can draw money from the trust and can benefit if his properties increase in value.
"You have to ask whether it's his true belief Tiger Woods deserves this award or whether he's doing it to help his business," said Jordan Libowitz, communications director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning public policy group.