Photo: AP

When the website TrumpHotels.org popped up last week, most people assumed it was created by some left-wing advocacy group. The parody website features photos of America’s immigrant detention camps, with children in cages and quotes from President Trump about Mexicans being rapists. But surprisingly, the website was actually started by a conservative. And Gizmodo talked with him over Twitter to learn why he did it.

Loren Collins, the 40-year-old lawyer who started TrumpHotels.org, says he leans “libertarian/conservative” and even ran for local office in 2015 as a Republican for the Georgia State House. But he doesn’t like President Trump’s policies and has even written a book about critical thinking and conspiracies, titled Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation.

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“Even if you take all of his ill-defined political beliefs out of the picture, he’s still an ignorant, intemperate, foolish, gullible, intellectually incurious, pathologically dishonest conspiracy theorist who is utterly unqualified for the job of running a country,” Collins told Gizmodo. “And every day since he’s taken office, he’s demonstrated how ill-suited he is for a job that demands diplomacy and considered thought.”

“Which is why he not only managed to unnecessarily create this current border fiasco, but he cannot even appear that he has any real empathy for the people involved or has given any serious thought to how to remedy it,” added Collins. “Instead, as always, he blames others and passes the buck, while he spends time holding rallies and insulting Jimmy Fallon on Twitter.”

Parody website TrumpHotels.org, which highlights the atrocities currently being committed against children held in detention by the U.S. government
Screenshot: TrumpHotels.org

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So what gave him the idea to buy the TrumpHotels.org domain name and set up a satiricial website? He saw a friend use the #TrumpHotels hashtag to describe the immigrant detention centers, and thought it was “a brilliant satiric label.” Trump’s policy of “zero tolerance” at the border has meant the forced separation of families seeking asylum in the United States.

“I thought that it’d make good satire to create a mock hotel site for the hashtag, and I was surprised to discover that they’d never bought TrumpHotels.org, even though the .com is their main site,” said Collins. “So I bought it for $8 last Wednesday, paid another $8 to protect my privacy a little bit, and threw together a Wordpress page that I uploaded last Thursday afternoon.”

Collins bought the website on June 20, but it didn’t get much attention until Monday. For what it’s worth, Collins hasn’t heard from the Trump Organization about the site. At least not yet.

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“If they’re at all familiar with the Streisand Effect, I’d like to think they’d avoid drawing more attention to my work. And it’s a very, very bad look for a sitting President to try to silence political criticism through threats of litigation against private citizens,” Collins said.

The Streisand Effect, coined by TechDirt writer Mike Masnick in 2005, refers to when someone tries to suppress information through legal action but ultimately makes the original information much more well known. It’s named after a 2003 case where Barbara Streisand tried to get photos of her Malibu house removed from the internet. The lawsuit simply got people more interested in where she lived and what her house looked like after it was reported online.

Collins does have one other Trump-related site, called Trump-Memorial.com, which he purchased after the refugee ban. But it currently just has a gif of a dumpster fire. And even though he once identified as a Republican, he tells Gizmodo that he won’t as long as Trump is in office.

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“Part of me would like to, but I can’t,” said Collins. “As I put it a few days after the 2016 election, I cannot stomach the thought of continuing to identify myself as a Republican when the party is under his leadership. So as long as Donald Trump remains the head of the Republican Party, I can’t be part of it.”

A “Trump Hotel” immigrant detention center in McAllen, Texas
Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

News of the Supreme Court’s ruling that upholds the Muslim travel ban just broke as we talked to Collins for this story. So we asked him what he thought of the decision.

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“As for the Muslim ban, it’s a heinous, unamerican action on his part, and it serves to hurt America’s standing on the world stage,” said Collins. “The way his administration has treated refugees and asylum seekers is even worse.”

But Collins believes that Congress can still hold the president accountable and reverse his disastrous policies.

“I haven’t had a chance to read the decision, but my understanding thus far is that the Court didn’t say that the ban was good or wise or smart. They held that it was authorized under the sweeping powers granted to the President under 8 USC §1182(f), where Congress allowed the President to unilaterally impose restrictions on travel,” Collins told Gizmodo.

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“It’s a testament to what happens when we assume that elected officials will always use the powers we give them wisely and responsibly. And Congress could easily undo this outcome, and again be a check on the President when it comes to imposing bans on foreign visitors, if only they had the willpower to stand up to Trump and act.”