As word spread that President Donald Trump’s administration was separating immigrant children from their asylum-seeking parents, Atlanta attorney Loren Collins decided the policy should become the president’s “well-deserved legacy.”
“During the Great Depression, shantytowns were nicknamed ‘Hoovervilles,’” he posted on Facebook and Twitter, where he only had 123 followers. “The term is now an indelible part of American history. To ensure this President’s legacy, it’s obvious what we should call child detention centers built into abandoned Wal-Marts: ‘Trump Hotels.’”
Then Collins—who describes himself on Twitter as a “Lawyer. Author. Actor. Science Enthusiast. Metropolitan Man of Mystery”—set out to make it happen.
As Collins explained on Facebook, high-end rooms at Trump hotels around the world can be booked online at TrumpHotels.com
“But neither our self-described ‘very stable genius’ billionaire president nor anyone at the Trump Organization ever thought to spend $8 to buy www.TrumpHotels.org. So I did,” he wrote.
He then began to troll TrumpHotels.com.
TrumpHotels.org displays a banner photo of immigrants detained in chain-link cages. It includes “thoughts from our manager”—Trump’s own words about what the website bills as “our services and our clientele.”
That includes Trump’s actual description of Mexicans as “killers and rapists … coming into this country,” on the faux website, and the president’s real commentary on the Chinese government’s violent suppression of student protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 as demonstrating “the power of strength.”
Under “Features and Services: Some of What You Expect from a Stay in a #TrumpHotel,” Collins posted a series of photos of immigrants and children in chain-link pens.
TrumpHotels.org went viral within 24 hours. When television political commentator Ana Navarro retweeted it Friday, Collins posted: “Level 2 Virality: Achieved.”
By Saturday, a companion #TrumpHotel page surfaced on Yelp, “if anyone was hankering to write a review,” Collins said.
Someone offered him $200 for the domain. “I’ll pass on that,” he posted.
He also said he would not be adverse to selling the domain. “If Trump wanted to buy the site, I might be willing to part with it in exchange for, say, 10 years of his tax returns, and the termination of 25 [nondisclosure agreements] of my choosing.”
Collins’ TrumpHotels website had attracted so much traffic by Monday morning, the web host temporarily shut it down. Collins told The Daily Report that the page ate up a half-terabyte of bandwidth over the weekend.
“That’s a lot because the page is only one page with seven pictures … which means it has been reloaded a lot of times,” he said. The webpage was back up and running by Monday afternoon.
“This blew up a lot bigger than I thought it was going to,” he added.
Collins is a lawyer—a “Double-Dawg Law Dawg” who earned his undergraduate degree in political science and religion, then his law degree at the University of Georgia. The TrumpHotels.org website reflects his profession.
It carefully notes that TrumpHotels.org is “intended for entertainment, satirical, and political commentary purposes” and is “an overt exercise of political speech,” “has no relationship to any commercial establishment or resort” and “is in no way intended to deceive or create confusion with use of any intellectual property, including trademarks or names of public figures.”
It claims protection as “fair use” as a “comment on social and political issues … through the use of ridicule and criticism.”
In addition to a solo legal practice that focuses on personal injury, estate planning and mediation, Collins is an author. His book, “Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation” was published by Prometheus Books in 2012. Collins calls it a field guide on how to avoid conspiracy theories, denialism, hoaxism and rumors. Collins said he wrote the book in response to the “birther movement” that centered on the unfounded rumor—perpetuated by Trump—that President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.
He wrote a blog, Barackryphal, dedicated to debunking conspiracy theories about Obama.
“Misinformation is a very real problem” Collins said. “And it’s a bigger problem now that he’s [Trump] a purveyor of it.”
Collins also has dabbled in politics since 2006, describing himself as a “Bull Moose Republican” in tribute to President Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party. He ran for U.S. Congress in the district then held by Democrat Cynthia McKinney in 2006 and again in 2008 against her successor, Rep. Hank Johnson, also a Democrat. He was a write-in candidate because, he said, Georgia has “really, really heinous third-party ballot access laws.”
He participated in most of the debates in 2006.
Collins ran as a Republican against Democrat Taylor Bennett for the Georgia House of Representatives in 2015 in the district that included Atlanta suburb Brookhaven. The two men became friends by the time Bennett won the race. Collins said he would often hang out in Bennett’s office at the Capitol when the General Assembly was in session.
He said he did not merely believe in bipartisan cooperation and discussion. He practiced it.
Collins declared himself a write-in candidate for president in 2016 with the slogan “Stark Raving Sane.”
His platform, his campaign website said, “had a single plank: “Keep Donald Trump from Becoming President.”