As Haiti faces mounting humanitarian crisis, right-wing media figures defend Trump’s “shithole” comment

Conservatives are laying the ground for inhumane treatment of Haitians if Trump wins a second term

Right-wing media figures are using an escalating political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti to defend former President Donald Trump’s racist comment that the country is a “shithole.” 

When Trump made the remark in 2018, it was widely seen as one of the most explicitly anti-Black things he had said during his tenure to that point. Now, conservatives are again embracing it and retroactively claiming Trump’s racism — which he also directed at El Salvador and African countries — was justified.

On March 11, unelected Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry promised he would resign and leave office once a transitional council had been established, though the timeline for when that would happen remains unclear. Haiti currently does not have an elected president, national legislature, or any elected mayors, and a coalition of armed groups has now taken control of large swathes of territory across the country. 

Much of Haiti’s current instability can be traced to a 2004 coup which removed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the country’s first elected president, from power, following his demand that France pay the island nation more than $21 billion in reparations for its colonial exploitation. 

In 2022, in an interview with The New York Times, the former French ambassador to Haiti admitted “that France and the United States had effectively orchestrated ‘a coup’ against Mr. Aristide, and that his abrupt removal was ‘probably a bit about’ his call for reparations from France.” Haiti’s political system has never recovered from the ouster and has been dominated by a series of unelected leaders.

Rather than acknowledge the role the United States and France played in creating this crisis, right-wing conservatives have embraced Trump’s anti-Black racism.

On the March 11 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox’s Will Cain defended Trump’s “shithole” comment. “You’ll remember a few years ago President Trump called countries, several countries, s-hole — he called them, you know, not great places, and he used a bad term,” Cain said, adding, “You know, the truth is, Trump tells the truth. … When has Haiti ever been stable?”

Co-host Lawrence Jones called back to September 2021, when Haitian migrants were forced to set up a temporary camp under the international bridge at Del Rio, Texas. “They were already starting their own little gangs on the other side of the border,” Jones said, without providing any evidence.

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Citation From the March 11, 2024, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

That afternoon, The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh also echoed Trump’s remarks. “No, Haiti is not a great country,” Walsh said. “It’s an awful country, an awful place.”

“It is incoherent to describe a country where almost nobody prospers as great,” Walsh added. “It is much more coherent to describe such a country as a craphole.”

“Indeed, you can usually detect the craphole countries and distinguish them from the great countries, because people from the craphole countries are always trying to get into the great countries,” Walsh continued.

Later in the segment, Walsh claimed that recent immigrants — those in the United States with and without authorization, including Haitians — come from “decaying, dying, dead, nonexistent civilizations without the skills to build a civilization.”   

That evening, Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld attacked Trump’s critics, saying, “Don’t call Haiti a shithole — even though today that sounds like an upgrade, as Port-au-Prince looks more and more like a port-a-potty.”

Far-right accounts on X (formerly Twitter) similarly celebrated Trump’s racist remarks. Prominent troll account End Wokeness criticized celebrities who defended Haiti in 2018, asking, “How did these [pro-Haiti] t-shirts age?” 

Conservative activist Nate Hochman, who was let go from Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’ presidential campaign after being tied to a video promoting Nazi imagery, wrote: “A brief glance at what's currently transpiring in Haiti suggests that if anything, his [Trump’s] colorful word choice from 2018 didn't go far enough.”

The same was true on right-wing blogs. An editorial at The Daily Caller accused Trump’s critics of “gaslighting people into thinking a third world country isn’t a ‘shithole’ just because orange man bad.” A headline at Townhall read: “Liberal America's 'Haiti Isn't a S**thole' Narrative Took a Fatal Blow Over the Weekend”

When they weren’t defending Trump’s comments specifically, some conservatives offered their own racist takes. Neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec claimed that Haiti is in a “gang civil war, because the black-magic voodoo cannibals have launched war on the government itself.”  

Todd Bensman, a senior fellow at nativist think tank the Center for Immigration Studies, appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast and called for the Coast Guard and Navy to interdict Haitian asylum-seekers at sea and send them to Guantanamo Bay. “So maybe they'll, somebody will, you know, they'll come to their senses about that and ship them to Guantanamo Bay, and that'll put a stop to it right away,” Bensman said. Later in the episode, Bannon claimed that “in the next 72 hours” Florida will be “under invasion” from a “flotilla coming from Haiti.”

Bensman’s proposal echoed two particularly shameful episodes in U.S. history. In 1991, the George H.W. Bush administration began holding thousands of Haitians in makeshift camps at Guantanamo Bay, and President Bill Clinton resurrected the program in 1994. Those policies laid the groundwork for indefinite detention at the island prison during the War on Terror, persecuted by Bush’s son, George W. Bush. In 2022, President Joe Biden’s administration reportedly considered revitalizing the Haitian detention program at Gitmo.

Right-wing media frequently demonized Haiti even prior to Trump’s rise, especially after the earthquake there in 2010. Just days after the disaster, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed Haiti’s economy produced “zilch, zero, nada” and speculated that President Barack Obama would attempt to “reinstate the communist Aristide.” Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson said that when Haitian revolutionaries fought to expel the French, they “got together and swore a pact to the devil,” and that “ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.” Fox News essentially ignored the earthquake for days, even as it got significant coverage elsewhere. 

Haiti has never been entirely free from colonial domination since it won its independence in 1804 and was subsequently forced to pay France for its freedom, debilitating the young country’s development. The 2004 coup and its aftermath — including the current crisis — is a continuation of that legacy. Instead of grappling with this history, right-wing pundits have embraced one of the many low points of Trump’s first term in office.