After apparently tuning in to Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump waded into the affairs of the South African government, pushing a talking point favored by white nationalists regarding the country’s land reforms—and angering South Africans as well as others who understand South Africa’s history of racial oppression.
I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
Trump’s tweet was “misinformed,” according to a South African government spokesperson, and a number of critics condemned the president’s reaction, clearly devoid of any context other than Carlson’s one-sided segment.
From lies about immigrants in Sweden to farmers in South Africa, when Trump uses white supremacist talking points he is getting the ideas from Tucker Carlson. Tucker Carlson is single-handedly bringing white supremacist talking points into our national political discourse. https://t.co/UA5lRuUgDX
— we’re going to abolish ICE (@SeanMcElwee) August 23, 2018
Carlson presented a segment criticizing the Trump administration for not addressing South Africa’s plans to amend its constitution in order to allow the expropriation of land owned by white farmers.
“The president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has begun, and you may have seen this in the press, seizing land from his own citizens without compensation because they are the wrong skin color,” Carlson told his viewers.
Although only nine percent of South Africans are white, they control 72 percent of the country’s fertile land, nearly a quarter of a century after the official end of apartheid and white minority rule.
Since 1994, the government has offered compensation to willing sellers of farmland in order to promote fair distribution, but the slow pace of land reforms led to a proposal of direct action last year. In July, the government announced it would push ahead with land expropriation.
Fierce opposition to the plan—and the notion that white farmers have been subjected to “large scale killing” as mentioned by Trump—is a frequent subject of discussion in the corners of the internet inhabited by white supremacists and white nationalists, Reveal journalist Aaron Sankin noted.
Cool that Tucker Carlson is acting as direct pathway communicating narratives between white nationalists and the President of the United States. https://t.co/zPAGALtnVp
— Aaron Sankin (@ASankin) August 23, 2018
I cannot overstate the frequency with which white nationalists talk about the plight of white farmers in South Africa in podcasts and online forums.
— Aaron Sankin (@ASankin) August 23, 2018
As they did a year ago after Trump repeatedly said that “both sides” were to blame after an anti-racist counter-protester was killed at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalists celebrated the president’s support for their cause.
A BBC report last year debunked the white nationalist myth of “large scale killings” of white land-owners, finding that “the claim being made by protesters about farmers being more likely to be murdered is not supported by reliable data.”
The South African government condemned Trump’s attempt to sow division.
“South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past,” the government wrote on its official Twitter account.
Other critics saw Trump’s reliance on fringe right-wing talking points as an attempt to play to the dwindling segment of the population that still supports him, a day after two of his close associates were determined to be guilty of criminal wrongdoing, with his former lawyer Michael Cohen directly implicating Trump in a conspiracy.
A disgusting lie.
What Trump is now doing with his back against the wall is playing to his racist white base to make sure they don’t leave.
NO “large scale killing of farmers” exists in South Africa. NONE.
A complete fabrication from white supremacists. https://t.co/nk6b049iqv
— Shaun King (@shaunking) August 23, 2018