Country club’s Epstein snub fuels debate over civility in politics

Franklin — Republican congressional candidate Lena Epstein says the decision by her country club to cancel her political fundraiser in Oakland County has fueled support for her campaign for the U.S. House.

She said the fundraiser — instead held Wednesday night at an Italian restaurant in Bloomfield Hills — brought out twice as many as the maximum 50 people she was allowed at Franklin Hills Country Club before the board of directors canceled her event. She wouldn’t say exactly how many attended.

“The outpouring of support has been humbling, to say the least,” she said Thursday.

The controversy over Epstein’s event comes amid a growing national debate over civility in political discourse after protesters publicly confronted prominent conservatives affiliated with President Donald Trump in recent days, including top members of his staff and cabinet.

Epstein, who strongly supports Trump, got a call Friday informing her that the country club board had voted to cancel her fundraiser because of her political views, she said.

Epstein co-chaired Trump’s campaign in Michigan in 2016. She is seeking the GOP nomination in the 11th District, where Republican Rep. Dave Trott is retiring.

“It’s discrimination. Let’s call it what it is,” Epstein said. “I’m a longstanding member. My family were longstanding members of the community. We’ve never experienced anything like this.”

The Franklin Hills board president and manager have not returned calls from The Detroit News. At the club Thursday, a reporter seeking comment was asked to leave by a manager who would not provide his name.

Franklin Hills is a private club dating to the 1920s when it was founded by a group of Detroit Jewish leaders. It has a golf course and a clubhouse designed by renown Detroit architect Albert Kahn.

Despite the controversy, Epstein — a fourth-generation member of the club — said she will maintain her membership at Franklin Hills, which she called her “second home.”

“Not at all. We have wonderful relationships at the club,” Epstein said. “We had 17 co-hosts for our event last night. Nine of them are members of the club.”

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon said Epstein’s complaints are typical of the “fake victimization of the people on the right.”

“She’s is crying about having a swanky fundraiser at a private club canceled, but she has no problem when Donald Trump and his friends lock kids in cages or take health care away from people. Cry me a river,” Dillon said.

Dillon said Franklin Hills is a private club with the right to ensure the events it hosts are consistent with what their members deem “appropriate.”

“Lena is not a normal Republican. She has gone out of her way to latch onto the worst elements of the Trump phenomenon, including being a cheerleader for all the offensive things that Donald Trump has done — and taking the support of racists, anti-Semites and all sort of really ugly characters,” Dillon said. “I have no sympathy for her whatsoever.”

Franklin Hills’ apparent cancellation of Epstein’s event came a week after a…

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