Opinion

Journo Levies Bizarre ‘Exploitation’ Charge Against Trump

President Donald Trump’s speech to African leaders at the United Nations was exploitative and felt a lot like colonialism, CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza claimed in an article Thursday.

“[T]here is a tendency to become inoculated to odd or controversial things Trump says because, well, he says them a lot,” Cillizza wrote on Thursday. “It’s important to take note of moments [like when] Trump says something that, coming out of the mouth of any previous modern president would have caused a medium-to-large international controversy.”

In this case, Trump’s adulation during his speech to African leaders and “its tremendous business potential” were enough for Cillizza to take notice. “I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich” Trump said. “I congratulate you, they’re spending a lot of money. …It’s really become a place they have to go, that they want to go.”

“What Trump is congratulating the assembled African leaders on feels a whole lot like the colonialism of the continent by European powers in the latter part of the 19th century,” wrote Cillizza. This is a strange observation considering the president was likely referring to American private business owners who engage in voluntary and mutually beneficial transactions with African nations and businesses.

“The motivations for colonialism then — as for business interests now — were primarily economic” writes Cillizza, completely ignoring that colonialism in the 19th century wasn’t a mutually beneficial or voluntary. Trump’s comments hark the repeated “exploitation” of Africa by the West. “The relationship bears the stain of slavery and the slave trade. Many, many books have been written on this topic,” according to the CNN reporter and editor.

There is a tendency by some to turn everything Trump says into a controversy.

Cillizza gives Trump “the benefit of the doubt” by acknowledging that the president is “simply congratulating African leaders on the economic growth in their countries.” But Trump’s goodwill and intentions were not enough for Cillizza.

“[I]t borders on invoking the image of exploitation — and being totally clueless about the history of colonialism in Africa,” Cillizza wrote.

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