Baltimore, Africa and Sweden on Trump's global list of places no human wants to live
By Rick Noack Jul 29, 2019
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President Donald Trump's description of Baltimore as "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess" over the weekend followed a pattern that has become familiar: In an attempt to undermine a political opponent, the president disparages an entire place - often in racially insensitive tones.
Trump has sharply criticized Chicago, San Francisco and Oakland, California, and Ferguson, Missouri, in the United States. But that same pattern has played out abroad as well, where entire nations or continents were insulted by the president.
The most prominent example of a nation that has found itself repeatedly targeted by Trump is Mexico. During his campaign, Trump falsely claimed that Mexico sends "criminals, drug dealers, rapists" to the United States.
When it comes to Europe, Trump has embraced the far-right view that immigrants have brought crime and backward traditions to some of the continent's most important capitals. His statements on parts of the developing world have questioned why anyone would want to live there.
Here's a list of places Trump has denigrated. In some cases, the insults have deeply offended locals. In other cases, they were met with ridicule.
Trump's take: "With the incompetent Mayor of London, you will never have safe streets," Trump tweeted two weeks ago, in the latest salvo of a long feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Previously, Trump had said that rising knife crime had brought a "sea of blood" to London hospitals, and he branded parts of the capital as de facto "no-go" areas: "We have places in London and other places that are so radicalized that the police are afraid for their own lives."
What it's like: London was ranked the world's fourth-best city by Time Out this year.
Most of the president's disparaging comments have focused on rising crime rates in the city, which are indeed a cause for concern for local officials. But, as Brian Klaas recently pointed out in The Washington Post, "the murder rate is more than twice as high in New York, more than four times higher in San Francisco, more than 27 times higher in New Orleans and more than 43 times higher in St. Louis."
Trump's critics suspect the president's fixation on portraying London as a dangerous city has to do with its ethnic diversity and Muslim mayor.
"President Trump, . . . your values and what you stand for are the complete opposite of London's values and the values of this country," Khan, a member of the Labour party, said this summer. "We think diversity is not a weakness."
Even the president's nominal allies were taken aback when he said there were "no-go areas" in London.
Britain's new prime minister, Boris Johnson, joined the backlash against Trump's comments on London "no-go" areas, saying in 2015: "The only reason I wouldn't go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump." (Trump still appears to be a fan of Johnson anyway.)
Trump's take: When Trump talked about something "happening last night in Sweden" during a rally in early 2017, Swedes were puzzled. Trump later explained he had been referring to a Fox News segment on crime and immigration in Sweden. Last week, he again spoke of a "real crime problem" in Sweden while advocating on behalf of American rapper A$AP Rocky, who is detained in Stockholm on assault charges.
What it's like: Don't go to Sweden unless you want to study free and in English, enjoy breathtaking landscapes or live in the nation ranked as the world's most reputable and most ethical last year.
When Trump lashed out at Sweden and its alleged crime problem last week, Swedish political scientist Merrick Tabor was not surprised. "People sort of expect this kind of stuff from him," he said.
Crime rates are relatively high for a European nation, but those living in neighborhoods branded by the far-right as so-called no-go areas have vehemently rejected that characterization.
"We have such talented students here," said 51-year-old American doctor Lucie Buissereth-Lindner last fall. Buissereth-Lindner moved to Stockholm to work as a teacher in a part of town that is often portrayed as miserable and crime-ridden.
El Salvador, Haiti, and African countries
Trump's take: "Shithole countries," according to remarks Trump allegedly made in the Oval Office last year.
What it's like: After Trump's remarks became public, Haitians and others took to Twitter last year to post photos of their countries, showing everything from everyday street scenes to spectacular views of green mountains and turquoise waters.
Officials in a number of African countries echoed those responses.
"Ours is not a shithole country. Neither is Haiti or any other country in distress," said Jessie Duarte, deputy secretary general of the African National Congress.
El Salvador's then-foreign minister, Hugo Martinez, emphasized, "Our countrymen are hard-working people."
The offending term came back into focus on Sunday, when the president retweeted far-right, anti-Islam British commentator Katie Hopkins calling Baltimore a "proper sh*thole."
Trump: Baltimore is a violent place.
(Highest homicide rate in USA / @BaltimorePolice civilian employee assaulted in street/ proper sh*thole)
Tweet a close up pic of a flower / share a hashtag. Feel better. #WeAreBaltimore
Trump's take: "Paris is no longer Paris," Trump said in 2017, citing a "friend" called Jim. Two years prior, Trump said: "They have sections in Paris that are radicalized, where the police refuse to go there. They're petrified. The police refuse to go in there."
What it's really like: Trump's originally made comments on "no-go" areas in Paris shortly after the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015, in which 131 victims were killed. French officials strongly rejected Trump's characterization, however. In a direct response to Trump, Paris city hall said, "While terrorism knows no borders, hitting France just like the U.S., that has in no way taken away the fact that Paris is a safe and welcoming city."
Last year, it was named the world's highest-rated city by the Anholt-Gfk City Brands Index. The French capital got top marks for public transport, diversity, safety and opportunities, among other things.