Trump brands himself 'nationalist' and denies racial links to word

President denied term had any links to white nationalists

Kristin Hugo
New York
Wednesday 24 October 2018 16:51 BST
Donald Trump speaks during a 'Make America Great' rally in Missoula, Montana
Donald Trump speaks during a 'Make America Great' rally in Missoula, Montana (Getty)

US President Donald Trump has called himself a “nationalist” but denies the racial connotation of the word.

“You know, they have a word,” Mr Trump said at a rally on Monday night in Texas.

“It sort of became old fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, 'Really, we’re not supposed to use that word?' You know what I am? I'm a nationalist, okay, I’m a nationalist.’”

Critics like CNN anchor Don Lemon have called the president out on his choice of words, questioning whether using the term was a “sloppy” mistake or a “dog whistle.”

A “dog whistle” is coded language that means one thing to the general population – like “love of our country” – and secretly means another thing to a certain group – such as “priority for whites” to racists.

There is nothing formally racial in the dictionary’s definition of “nationalism:” it simply means devotion to one’s own country. However, in both a historical and modern context, many have linked the word “nationalist” with controversial, far-right conservative, and sometimes white supremacist ideologies.

CNN reports that the term dates back to the 17th century, but today, American “nationalists” are often associated with white nationalists, specifically.

White nationalists want the US to remain a primarily white nation, with white people holding the most political, social, and economic power. White nationalists organised the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, when a woman was killed when a vehicle rammed into anti-fascist protesters.

On Tuesday, reporters asked the president if his use of the term means that he’s a white nationalist. "I’ve never even heard that. I cannot imagine that," Mr Trump said, according to The Hill. Instead, he insisted, he used the word to explain how he loves America and wants the country to be treated fairly and with respect.

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