When Diamond and Silk learned that Donald Trump planned to boycott a Republican debate in January and instead hold a televised fundraiser for veterans, they flew to his event in Des Moines, Iowa. When Trump staffers invited them on stage, the sisters addressed the crowd for eight minutes, praising the real estate mogul for pledging to care for U.S. veterans and urging voters to stump for him. “He has you in mind,” Lynette Hardaway, who goes by the stage name Diamond, said at the podium, just four days before the Iowa caucuses kicked off the primary election season.
“We chose to go there ourselves because that was a special moment; finally, somebody is doing something for our veterans,” Rochelle Richardson, known as Silk, tells Newsweek. That special moment was a long time coming: It wasn’t until four months later that Trump, amid media reports questioning where the fundraiser money had gone, donated $5.6 million to veterans’ groups, a figure that included $1 million from his own wallet. (Trump later fired back at the “dishonest” press, saying he shouldn’t be lambasted “for doing such a good job.”)