Trump accused of racist slur during debate for calling India and China ‘filthy’

Stuti Mishra
·5-min read
Donald Trump in the second and final presidential debate called India 'filthy', before hastily correcting himself (AP)
Donald Trump in the second and final presidential debate called India 'filthy', before hastily correcting himself (AP)

As Donald Trump and Joe Biden came face to face for the last time during the second and final presidential debate, a comment from Mr Trump calling India “filthy” has provoked an angry response from many Indians online.

Mr Trump was being questioned about the global climate crisis by moderator Kristen Welker, when he defended his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, which, he said, would have made America a non-competitive nation.

Adding to that, Mr Trump said: “Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia. Look at India – it’s filthy,” before hastily correcting himself and adding: “The air is filthy.”

The comment did not go down well with Indian Americans and on Twitter in India itself on Friday morning, with many people voicing their opposition to Mr Trump’s comment. New York Times writer Wajahad Ali sarcastically called it a “great way to win over Indian Americans”.

India’s own media quickly picked up on the comment, with NDTV leading its bulletins with a headline calling it an attempt to shift the blame for climate change onto developing countries.

And many Indian politicians, particularly from the opposition, laid into Mr Trump. Sudheendra Kulkarni, a columnist and former BJP official, described it as a “racist slur”.

Much has been made in the past four years of the good relationship enjoyed by Mr Trump and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, with the pair hailing each other as “good friends”.

Mr Trump’s characterisation of India as “filthy” on the world stage led critics of the prime minister in India to suggest this was not such a great foreign policy victory as it is often described.

A senior leader of the opposition Congress party, Kapil Sibal asked if this was all Mr Modi had to show for the expensive and much-vaunted “Howdy Modi” and “Namaste Trump” events held by the two countries to welcome their respective leaders in recent years.

Referring to Mr Trump’s pronunciation debacles during the Namaste Trump event in India in February this year, comedian Vir Das said: “Svami vivakamudununfu will be really angry."

Many users also pointed out that the air of India’s national capital is indeed in the “very poor” category right now, as the smog season has arrived in the north of the country with temperatures dropping and stubble burning underway in neighbouring states.

A report released this week called State of Global Air 2020 revealed that India’s air pollution has been responsible for the deaths of more than 116,000 babies in 2019 alone due to their mothers’ exposure to bad air in pregnancy.

Other Twitter users called on Mr Trump to look at the air quality in the west coast of his own country, after the impacts of the California wildfires this year.