Trump's long-standing fascination with genes and lineages gets new scrutiny


In 2020, President Donald J. Trump gave a campaign speech in Minnesota criticizing refugees and racial justice protests. Towards the end, he concluded with standard lines from his speech and praise for the state's pioneer lineage.

Trump then paused to address his crowd of Minnesota supporters with an aside that seemed to invoke a theory of genetic superiority.

“You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot has to do with genes, don't you think? Trump told the audience. “The racehorse theory, do you think we are so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”

Trump's mention of racehorse theory (the idea adapted from horse breeding that good bloodlines produce superior offspring) reflected a focus on bloodlines and genetics that Trump has had for decades, and who has received renewed attention and scrutiny in his third term. candidacy for the presidency.

In recent months, Trump has received widespread criticism for claiming that undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” a phrase he first said in an interview with a right-wing media outlet and repeated last week during his speech. Campaign. .

As with the 2020 speech, Trump's comments have been criticized by historians, Jewish and liberal groups, who said his language was reminiscent of the ideology of eugenics promulgated by Nazis in Germany and white supremacists in the United States.

In a radio interview on Friday, Trump again defended his use of the phrase “blood poisoning.” He dismissed criticism that his language echoed Nazi ideology by saying he was “not a student of Hitler” and that his statement used “blood” in crucially different ways, although he did not elaborate. .

But as much as news articles, biographers, and books about his presidency have documented Trump's long interest in Adolf Hitler, they have also shown that Trump has frequently resorted to the language of genetics when speaking of his and his superiority. others.

Trump was publicly discussing his belief that genetics determined a person's success in life as early as 1988, when he told Oprah Winfrey that a person had to “have the right genes” in order to achieve great fortune.

He would connect those views to racehorse theory in a 2007 CNN interview with Larry King.

“They can absolutely teach you things. Absolutely. “There is a lot of room for improvement,” Trump told King. “But there is something. You know, in the racehorse theory, there's something in the genes. And I mean, when I say something, I mean a lot.”

Three years later, he would tell CNN that he was a “believer in genes,” explaining that “when you connect two racehorses, you usually end up with a fast horse” and comparing his “gene pool” to that of successful thoroughbreds.

Michael D'Antonio, who wrote a biography of Trump in 2015, has attributed this opinion to Trump's father. D'Antonio told PBS' “Frontline” in a 2017 documentary that members of the Trump family believed that “there are superior people and that if you put the genes of a superior woman and a superior man together, you will have superior offspring.” .”

In 2019, D'Antonio told The New York Times that Trump had said that a person's genes at birth were a determining factor in their future, more than anything they learned later.

The former president has not only touted his own “good genes,” but has repeatedly praised those of British business leaders, evangelical Christian leaders, a senior campaign adviser and American industrialist Henry Ford.

A Trump campaign spokesman, Steven Cheung, said in a statement that Trump in his radio interview had “reiterated that he is talking about criminals and terrorists crossing the border illegally.”

Mr. Cheung added: “Only the media is obsessed with racial genetics and lineages, and is offered a safe haven for disgusting and vile anti-Semitic rhetoric to be spewed through its media.”

Trump's political career and rise to the presidency are inextricably linked to anti-immigrant rhetoric, and his tone has only grown harsher in his third run for office.

In Friday's radio interview, conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt asked Trump to explain his use of the phrase, pressing him several times to respond to those who were outraged that the phrase resembled statements made by Hitler in his manifesto. full of hate, “Mein Lucha.”

The former president said there were no racist intentions behind the statement. He then added: “I don't know anything about Hitler. I am not a student of Hitler. I never read his works.”

Trump has long had a documented interest in Hitler. A table next to his bed once held a copy of Hitler's speeches called “My New Order,” a gift from a friend that Ivana Trump, his first wife, said she had seen him flipping through occasionally.

He once asked his White House chief of staff why he lacked generals like those who reported to Hitler, and called those military leaders “totally loyal” to the Nazi dictator, according to a book about the Trump presidency by Peter Baker, a reporter for the New York Times. and Susan Glasser.

On another occasion, he told the same aide that “well, Hitler did a lot of good things,” according to Michael C. Bender, a journalist who is now a reporter for the New York Times, in a 2021 book about Trump.

The former president has denied making both comments. On Friday, he continued his defense by pointing out that his phrase – “poison the blood” – differed from passages in “Mein Kampf” in which Hitler uses “poison” and “blood” to make his views about how outsiders were ruining the Aryans. racial purity.

“They say he said something about blood,” Trump said. “He didn't say it the way I said it either. By the way, it is a very different type of statement.” He did not explain the distinction.

In “Mein Kampf,” Hitler wrote that great civilizations declined “because the originally creative race became extinct, as a result of blood contamination.” At one point, Hitler links “the poison that has invaded the national body” with an “influence of foreign blood.”

Trump told Hewitt that he used “blood poisoning” to refer to immigrants from Asia, Africa and South America (although he did not mention Europeans) who he stated broadly came from prisons and mental institutions. He added that “this is not a specific group,” but immigrants from “all over the world” who “don't speak our language.”

Trump directly addressed comparisons between his comment and Hitler's comments for the first time on Tuesday at a campaign event in Iowa, where he told hundreds of supporters that he had “never read 'Mein Kampf.'”

The next day, the Biden campaign posted a graphic on social media that directly compared Trump to Hitler, using images of both and listing three quotes from each of them.

Historians have also accused Trump of echoing the language of fascist dictators, including Hitler. Last month, he described his political opponents as “vermin” who needed to be eradicated.

Sheelagh McNeill contributed to the research.

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