He’s a suspended lawyer, a former DJ who lost his job over racist jokes, and he currently faces a lawsuit from a political campaign adviser.
But when Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Eric Deters steps on stage this weekend at the right-wing “Freedom Fest,” he’ll be joined by two prominent voices in the MAGA movement: Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
The decision to have former President Donald Trump’s two eldest sons headline the event is all the more curious for another reason: Trump actually endorsed Deters’ opponent earlier this year in the gubernatorial race, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Reached on Thursday, Eric Trump told The Daily Beast he wasn’t endorsing Deters himself so much as just enjoying a far-right confab.
“This is not an endorsement—this is an incredible event, in an incredible state and I am honored to take the stage on behalf of my father and the entire Make America Great Again movement!” he said in a statement.
Last year on Sept. 11, Deters put together the same event on his 138-acre Kentucky farm just south of Cincinnati, Ohio. Thousands of MAGA loyalists—including a contingent of the anti-democratic, Euro-supremacist violent Proud Boys—showed up to wave American flags and complain about vaccine mandates.
This year, the Trumps will be joined by anti-vaxxer influencer Candace Owens and Seth Dillon, who runs the liberal-trolling website The Babylon Bee. After fireworks, Deters plans to screen Dinesh D’Souza’s conspiracy-peddling 2020 election documentary, “2000 Mules.” Former Fox News host and current Don Jr. fiancée Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is also scheduled to speak this weekend, tweeted out a flyer for the festival.
“Morningview, Kentucky, you’re not going to want to miss this event!” she wrote. “We are going to SAVE AMERICA! Hope to see many of you there. 🇺🇸.”
According to the flyer, this year’s event is sponsored by four entities—although that list includes Deters, his law firm, and his own media company. The fourth is a Wyoming energy company created by Kentucky entrepreneurs, one of whom is a disgraced local judge who resigned from the bench in 2003 after he was reported to the state’s judicial ethics committee for allegedly abusing his power and coercing a woman into having sex with him while her child custody case was pending before him.
Meanwhile, Deters has his own host of legal troubles. The self-described “legal outlaw” is a “retired” lawyer who still runs a law firm even though Kentucky suspended his attorney’s license at least twice, and Ohio last year fined him $6,500 for giving legal advice. Despite the crystal clear order that he cease acting as an attorney, Deters has told the Kentucky Bar Association in writing, “I will always work in law,” and “No one can stop me from doing that.” Earlier this summer, he tweeted out an ad for his law firm with the disclaimer that he “manages” it but remains “retired.”
He’s also a disgraced AM talk radio host who was booted from the job in 2011 after making racist remarks on video. The 700 WLW station fired him from what it called a “weekend and substitute talk show host” role after someone posted a video of Deters saying to the camera: “I just want you to know that I understand Black culture. If you want to conquer an African nation, send white women and pot!” He later apologized for the remark and discussed the matter with the NAACP.
Deters went on to become a Trump 2016 campaign volunteer in Kentucky, where at one point he managed to piss off the campaign leadership by telling a local newspaper that a rally was canceled when it wasn’t.
Fast-forward to this year, when Deters tried to jumpstart his campaign for Kentucky governor by doing what’s become commonplace at the Republican party: Making an obligatory trip to Trump’s oceanside estate in South Florida to grovel before the former president and try to snag his coveted political endorsement.
It didn’t work.
A federal lawsuit filed by GOP political operative Corey Lewandowski lays out what happened. He and Deters met at an expensive Feb. 23 fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, where guests were charged $100,000 to attend. Lewandowski claimed, “Deters paid to attend that event in hopes he would receive former President Donald Trump’s endorsement for Deters’ campaign for Governor of Kentucky,” and while at the party, he got to talking with the longtime Trump adviser who played a pivotal role during the presidential candidate’s meteoric rise in 2016.
Hiring Lewandowski seemed like the winning ticket. In court papers, Lewandowski says he agreed to be Deters’ political adviser after the candidate made himself out to be “a well-respected Kentucky attorney” who “was independently wealthy” and “had more than $5,000,000 in the bank.” But within a couple of months, Deters was falling behind on his $17,500 monthly bill.
Things got infinitely worse when Deters ran his mouth yet again, managing to piss off Trump a second time—this time worsening the former president’s feud with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Deters shelled out another $75,000 to attend a Trump event at the Kentucky Derby on May 7, where “attendees were told ahead of time it would be inappropriate to post photographs from the event, and to discuss with the media any alleged statements that former President Trump made about Senator Mitch McConnell,” Lewandowski’s lawsuit says. After the event, Deters immediately tried to capitalize on his brief moment with the former president by boasting to the Louisville Courier Journal that he and Trump shared a common hatred of McConnell, telling a journalist that Trump had called the Kentucky senator a “scumbag.”
Lewandowski claimed he was forced to inform Deters that his “behavior at the Derby event, and his comments to the media that followed it, would likely be seen as being disloyal to former President Trump.”
The next month, Trump endorsed Kentucky’s AG for governor instead. Lewandowski claims he dropped Deters as a client in June, only to sue him in August for unpaid work.
Deters has told reporters he now plans to run for governor as an independent. He did not respond to an email seeking clarification on whether he sees the Trump brothers’ appearance this weekend as a tacit endorsement.
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