As outrage continues to pour in over President Donald Trump calling Haiti, El Salvador, and several African countries “shithole countries,” a new dialogue is being created about how to frame Trump within the context of his predecessors. Is Trump really more openly racist than recent former presidents? Short answer: Yes.
“The point is that since the New Deal, since the beginnings of modern civil rights era, no president has ever said anything publicly as explicitly racist as what we’ve heard from President Trump,” historian and emeritus of Princeton University Daniel Rodgers told Vice News.
When analyzing Trump’s comments, Rice University professor of presidential history Douglas Brinkley also referenced Woodrow Wilson—who made D.W. Giffith’s The Birth of Nation, a romanticized tale of the Klu Klux Klan, the first film ever shown inside the White House.
“Trump is the most overtly racist president since Woodrow Wilson,” Brinkley told Vice News. “All presidents have tried to not flash their bigot card as clearly as Trump does.”
Of course, Trump isn't known as the White House's first racist; what sets him apart is how he's made bigotry the "modus operandi of his campaign," as Brinkley puts it. Trump is preceded by Lyndon B. Johnson—a president who was known for dropping an N-bomb with the hard R inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“When I appoint a nigger to the bench, I want everybody to know he’s a nigger,” Johnson infamously said about nominating Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court.
Trump’s recent comments also echo statements made by the late Richard Nixon.
“Do you know, maybe one black country that’s well run?” Nixon asked Henry Kissinger during a phone call about Jamaica. “Blacks can’t run it. Nowhere, and they won’t be able to for a hundred years, and maybe not for a thousand.”
Whether you’re debating the Reagan's racist welfare queen trope or Abraham Lincoln saying, “I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people,” one thing is clear: Donald Trump is the latest in a long line of racist presidents.