BIG CYPRESS — What’s in a name?
At Billie Swamp Safari, separated from otherwise friendly alligators, is a bully of all gators named in 1996 by Chairman James E. Billie after a memorable guest to the Big Cypress Reservation who came, saw and obviously left a lasting impression.
His name is Trump.
“We named the alligator and then we found out he was out there in the swamp killing the other alligators. He ate them alive. Here’s 20 years later and the man and the gator are still able to do the same thing,” said Chairman Billie to a CNN online political reporter during a Sept. 24 interview.
The reporter met with the Chairman at Billie Swamp Safari after research revealed good potential for a novel news story: An alligator named for billionaire Donald Trump, a presidential candidate and leading Republican contender, was alive and well and living on an Indian reservation in the Florida Everglades.
The CNN interview was planned weeks before the first Republican debate Sept. 17 when Trump denied past attempts to bring gambling to Florida, but it took on deeper significance in light of the debate remarks. The alligator was named during a time when the Tribe was broiled in a legal battle with the state over gambling sovereignty rights and Donald Trump was sizing up opportunities to expand his own gambling interests into Florida.
The Tribe was notified in mid-October that the news piece was to appear online the day before or hours before the next Republican debate on Oct. 28.
According to an archived Seminole Tribune report, Trump’s early March 1996 visit to Big Cypress was short and unremarkable except that he ended his jaunt to Florida by flying an entourage of tribal leaders to New York to attend a Rod Stewart concert – and he made a few now controversial comments.
He was quoted in The Tribune report: “I’ve been the biggest enemy of Indian gaming,” Trump said. “And why not? They are my competition. I want to defeat them. It’s business.”
And he was quoted further during the same visit: “I just need a few acres and I could build the biggest casino in the world down there in Hollywood.”
Shortly after Trump’s Big Cypress stop, the alligator was named. But it didn’t take long, the Chairman told CNN, until the gator’s aggressive behavior was found out.
Though not the largest gator in the swamp, the beast was deemed dangerous, captured and forced into isolation. He has lived alone in his private pit ever since.