KENOSHA — A man who was incorrectly identified by President Donald Trump Tuesday as the owner of a Kenosha business is speaking out for the first time. TMJ4 News first reported the story Tuesday night with reaction from the current owners, frustrated by what happened.
Rode’s Camera Shop in the Uptown neighborhood of Kenosha went up in flames during the unrest early last week following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
John Rode used to own the camera shop that still bears his name. He’s heartbroken after it was burned to the ground.
“Some of my personal effects were in the basement, I mean everything's ruined,” Rode said.
Nearly a decade ago, Rode sold the business to Tom Gram and Paul Willette, who declined an invitation to meet with the president. Rode, who maintained ownership of the building, accepted.
During his visit Tuesday, President Trump called Rode the store owner. Rode didn’t correct him.
“I may be not listening right. Did I just hear ‘owner’ and not hear ‘business owner?’ I don't know. And I also say if I did hear it, would I have corrected a president?” Rode said about what happened.
He made it clear to the White House prior to the president's visit that he owned the building, not the business.
Rode said when he realized what happened, he reached out to the White House Wednesday morning. An official responded to him in an email saying that background information passed along to the press and the president before his visit had "the word 'building' dropped" from Rode's title. Instead, the official said the notes read, "'John Rode III, Owner Rode's Camera Shop.'"
“I think it was just a clerical error,” Rode said.
Gram told TMJ4 News Tuesday night he was disappointed the name of his business was used during the photo op. He also said the president referring to Rode as the current owner of the store was deceptive.
One day later, Gram and Willette don’t believe Rode meant any harm.
“I can't hold anything against John in that regards,” Willette said.
They all just want to put everything behind them and move forward, focusing on the future.
“Hopefully we can all get past all this,” Rode said.
Rode said if he knew then what he knows now, he would have corrected the president.
TMJ4 News reached out to the White House for comment. An official released the following statement:
“John Rode III and his family founded and built Rode's Camera Shop from nothing before WWII and are still the owners of the building that houses the shop which was severely damaged from the riots.”
The White House did not address why Rode was misidentified by the president.