Already a tabloid fixture and reality TV celebrity, President Donald Trump built his political persona on a race-baiting lie that his presidential predecessor, Barack Obama, was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Trump announced his presidential candidacy by denouncing Mexicans as “rapists” and drug-dealing criminals.
He tried to discredit a respected judge because of his Mexican heritage.
He equivocated when the nation cried for clear moral leadership after white supremacists marched on Charlottesville, Va., in a naked display of racial hatred that left a young woman dead. There were “some very fine people” among the marchers, Trump told a stunned nation.
He has retweeted racially charged missives from misfits such as Britain First — an extremist anti-Muslim group whose name evokes Trump’s “America First” foreign policy — earning him a rare rebuke from British Prime Minister Theresa May, just one of many allies alienated by the president’s insensitivity.
He reportedly said in June that immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS” and that Nigerians would never “go back to their huts” once they immigrated to America.
Trump, of course, often denies his actions, however well-documented they may be. And he did so again after Thursday’s shoddy descriptions of African nations — many of them allies, all of them replete with people striving for a better life — as “shitholes.”
There’s no reason to believe his denial.
First, he’s made well over 1,000 untrue claims since he’s been president, according to multiple tracking sources, and Trump reportedly phoned friends and allies about the comments in what one White House official called a “victory lap.”
Second, a firsthand witness, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., contradicted the president’s tweeted disavowal. “It’s not true,” Durbin said on Friday. “He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”
Trump’s latest “hate-filled things” have already reverberated internationally. In just a few examples, a spokesperson for the African Union told the Associated Press, “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.” Botswana’s government called Trump’s comments “reprehensible and racist.” And South Africa’s opposition leader added that “the hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent.”
The slight against Africans comes at a time when China, America’s chief geopolitical rival, is making great inroads by investing in — and respecting — numerous nations on the continent. Trump’s comments only make the job harder for America’s already beleaguered diplomats.
The criticism wasn’t just international. And it wasn’t just from Democrats. Mia Love, a Republican representative from Utah whose parents were born in Haiti, said in a statement that the president’s comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation’s values.” Love later rightly called on Trump to “apologize to the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”
A year into his presidency, Donald Trump has repeatedly showed his true character, and lack thereof. We don’t expect an apology from his White House, where slurs and lies are seemingly dispensed in equal number, but one is needed.