Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump scored his biggest endorsement yet on Tuesday in fellow billionaire Carl Icahn, who announced his support in a short film outlining his views.
In the video, titled "Danger Ahead," Icahn says that while he disagrees with Trump on “certain issues,” he believes America “needs somebody to wake it up.”
“Maybe he’s brash, but he’s willing to say what he believes and he’s willing to say, ‘Hey, this is complete bulls---,’” Icahn said in the video, which is posted on his website. “The middle class guy who’s making $50,000 a year realizes ‘I’m being taken advantage of.’ He can read, he can understand.”
Icahn, 79, built his wealth investing in a large variety of companies and has an estimated net worth of $23.5 billion, according to Forbes. Trump's unconventional campaign had attracted few prominent backers, lending additional Icahn's move additional weight.
Icahn listed a series of issues that contributed to his decision. He brought up repatriation of corporate funds overseas, which Trump proposed on Monday to tackle with a one-time tax holiday followed by a requirement that they pay taxes on overseas income every year. Ichan backed Trump’s plan to end the so-called carried interest loophole, which lets hedge fund investors pay a lower tax rate. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has also proposed closing the loophole in his own tax plan. Icahn also complained that interest rates were too low under Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen.
“Thirty years, no tax reform, 30 years, no immigration, as a result you have this movement to a guy like Donald Trump because you want somebody who’s not beholden to an establishment,” Icahn said. “So you need a president that could move Congress, and I think Donald Trump could do it.”
Trump had publicly courted Icahn since launching his campaign, repeatedly naming him as a top choice for Treasury secretary if he won the election. Icahn initially said he was not interested in the job, but warmed up to the idea over time. After the first GOP debate in August, Icahn tweeted that he would accept Trump’s offer because “we are in dire need of a breath of fresh air,” but then rescinded the pledge this month while still praising Trump.
Like Trump, Icahn is known for his outspoken views and has similar roots in New York City.
“I want to speak out now because, I know this may sound corny but I grew up in the streets of Queens,” Icahn said in his video. “I love this country and I feel so strongly abut the dysfunction that is going on both in Washington and the boardrooms of corporate America.”
Icahn sat out the previous presidential election, telling Time in 2013 that he didn’t even vote for a candidate. In that interview, he criticized the tea party movement for its emphasis on austerity and 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney for his hidden camera remarks writing off the votes of “47%” of Americans who he considered hopelessly dependent on government. He also praised President Obama's broad goal of combatting inequality.
“I think the right wing is too radical in the Republican Party and the left wing is certainly the other way,” Icahn said. “A strong centrist movement would change the paradigm.”