Donald Trump Jr. is being criticized as tone-deaf after he praised the "smiles" of India's poorest citizens during his controversial visit to the country to promote his family's real estate projects

By Tierney McAfee
February 21, 2018 02:27 PM
Donald Trump Jr, New Delhi, India - 20 Feb 2018
Credit: Manish Swarup/AP/Shutterstock

Donald Trump Jr. is being criticized as tone-deaf after he praised the “smiles” of India’s poorest citizens during his controversial visit to the country to promote his family’s real estate projects.

President Donald Trump’s eldest son told India’s CNBC affiliate in New Delhi on Tuesday, “There is something about the Indian people that is unique here to other parts of the emerging world.”

“You go through a town, and I don’t mean to be glib about it, but you can see the poorest of the poor, and there is still a smile on a face … It’s a different spirit that you don’t see in other parts of the world where people walk around so solemn,” Trump Jr. said.

On social media, critics called Trump Jr.’s remarks an “international embarrassment” and as “tone-deaf” as Marie Antoinette’s infamous “Let them eat cake” comment.

Trump Jr.’s “unofficial” visit to India — which will also include a foreign policy speech about Indo-Pacific relations alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday — has been called a conflict of interest by critics.

As The Washington Post noted, the president did not divest himself of his businesses when he took office, instead turning over the day-to-day operations of his company to sons Don Jr. and Eric, who have no official role in their father’s administration.

Eric Trump told the Post last year that “the company and policy and government are completely separated. We have built an unbelievable wall in between the two.”

But ethics experts — including Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, and Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — say Trump Jr’s India trip is exploiting the presidency.

Libowitz told the Post: “Trump’s company is literally selling access to the president’s son overseas. For many people wanting to impact American policy in the region, the cost of a condo is a small price to pay to lobby one of the people closest to the president, far away from watchful eyes.”

On Tuesday, Trump Jr. nevertheless insisted that his father’s presidency is hurting rather than helping The Trump Organization’s ability to move property in India, which he described as an important market for the global company.

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“Few years ago, I said it would become our largest (market) because I really believed in the market… I think it will continue to be the same when I am able to get back in the market and focus on the business side, on new deals again in the future, once my father is out of office,” Trump Jr. told CNBC-TV18, according to Reuters.

He added that when critics say The Trump Organization is “profiteering from the presidency and all this nonsense” they’re forgetting about “the opportunity cost of the deals that we were not able to do.”

“It’s sort of a shame. Because we put on all these impositions on ourselves and essentially got no credit for actually doing that … for doing the right thing,” he added.

Even Reuters pointed out that Trump Jr.’s comments “appeared aimed at blunting criticism that there could be possible conflict of interest in pushing the Trump brand name.”