T. Boone Pickens, chief executive officer of BP Capital Management LP
Photograph by Chris Goodney — Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Stephen Gandel
May 11, 2016

Oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens is all in for Donald Trump for president, even backing the GOP frontrunner’s controversial stance on banning Muslims from entering the United States.

“I wouldn’t say it is permanent but I would cut off the Muslims coming into the United States until we can vet these people,” says Pickens. “We all look too much alike. . . they can tell I’m the oldest, but can’t tell what I am for or what I am against, or what I might do.”

Pickens made the comments at the SALT hedge fund conference, which kicked of on Wednesday. He was speaking on a panel with real estate developer Sam Zell. Many of Picken’s pro-Trump statements, and criticism of Hillary Clinton, got applause from the crowd.

Pickens said he supports Trump in part because of the likely GOP nominee’s stance on immigration. Pickens described the country’s current immigration policy of “kind of like just wander in.” And Pickens, who is a Republican, implied that Democrats have purposely allowed in illegal immigrants because it will help them in elections.

“Everyone who comes in gets to vote,” says Pickens. “And I think that has something to do with why the policy is as weak as it is.”

Pickens said that he thought Trump did have a tendency to overestimate how successful he has been. (“No shit,” says Zell.) But Pickens said what had propelled Trump was that voters were fed up with Washington, and that he was supporting Trump because he is the most likely candidate to bring change. “I do think Donald Trump is smart enough that he is going to bring in people to help him,” says Pickens.

Zell said that he was likely to support Trump as well. He said that the failure to execute in Washington was why the U.S. has 11 million illegal immigrants, and he said that President Obama was to blame for that. “The idea of studying anyone based on religion is insane,” Zell says. “But then when you read how the San Bernardino guy came to the United States, that’s a failure of execution.”

But Zell said he thought it was important to not cut off immigrants who want to come to the country legally. “Immigrants are self-starters and risk takers,” says Zell. “We need to encourage these types of people.”

 

Both Zell and Pickens said they thought the country needed change. Zell said he thought the last eight years would be remembered as a disaster, a comment that drew applause from the crowd.

Pickens agreed. In response to some of Trump’s contradictory comments on wanting to balance the budget, cut taxes, and spend money on infrastructure, Pickens said that Clinton has made contradictory statements as well. And Pickens said he understood he was likely to get some pushback because of his support for Trump. “I think Trump may be able to provide the type of change we need, and I am willing to bet on that,” says Pickens. “And some people will say, ‘Hell yes, you’re 88 and if you’re wrong you’ll be gone.'”

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