NASCAR’s CEO Won’t Own His Trump Endorsement

Brian France publicly backed Trump this spring yet now says "nobody wants to hear my political views"

Brian France — Getty Images for NASCAR
Nov 21, 2016 at 12:34 PM ET

Minutes after touting Mexican driver Daniel Suarez’s Xfinity Series championship—the first NASCAR national series title by a foreign-born driver—NASCAR CEO Brian France was asked about his support of president-elect Donald Trump and how those two ideas might be, shall we say, incongruous.

Here’s a transcript of how France responded (or video at 5:55 mark of the clip embedded herein):

Q. Brian, as you celebrate your first foreign driver winning a NASCAR championship, certainly there will be those who will raise questions about your support earlier this year of the president‑elect Donald Trump.

BRIAN FRANCE: I’ll stop you right there.

First of all, nobody wants to hear my political views. Not one person on this stage wants to hear from me politically. So I won’t be talking about that.

But on my diversity, nobody, nobody in this company, has worked harder, done more and resourced it better than me. I founded the Diversity Council. I fought for every single thing that makes sense, because that’s my core belief about diversity. It’s very, very important. I talk about it frequently.

And my efforts there should never be challenged, no matter what my political views might be. That’s a ridiculous thing to do.

Wait, nobody wants to hear your political views? Hmm. Now, we all could have sworn that you very publicly—and very individually—gave your personal endorsement to a major party presidential candidate back in late February. The president-elect tweeted about it, and you even appeared on a Georgia campaign stage with the man, an event for which there is even video evidence.

As our good friends at Merriam-Webster remind us, an endorsement is “a public or official statement of support or approval,” so if you thought no one wanted to hear your political views, why, Mr. France, did you offer them publicly and, we might add, completely unsolicited? (An email seeking further comment was not immediately returned by a NASCAR rep.)

It’s not like he can fall back on the claim that, as chief executive, he was simply the mouthpiece for the company he ran. A NASCAR spokesman was very clear at the time in deeming his endorsement a “private, personal decision by Brian” without the backing of NASCAR the corporate behemoth.

So France was in no way coerced or compelled to endorse a candidate for president but chose to do so anyway. That man has now been elected—a man who has been repeatedly praised by David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that endorsed Trump—so it’s no longer quite as convenient to discuss your political support of Trump when you at the same time are trying to promote your NASCAR diversity work. (Trump did not initially denounce Duke before doing so a couple days later; Trump’s son Eric later called Duke “horrible” and that “the guy does deserve a bullet.”)

So, yes, France is probably right that NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program has been a successful venture and helped Suarez get to where he is now, but so too is it appropriate for a reporter to ask about his public endorsement of a president-elect whose Cabinet appointments indicate a very racist, anti-diversity, anti-immigration platform. France is the one who thought others did want to hear his political views a few months back, and now he needs to own his endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan’s favorite politician.