Trump defended hosting the Saudi-backed LIV golf tournament by saying 'We have human rights issues' too. Human rights experts agrees and say Trump himself was responsible for many during his presidency.
- Former President Donald Trump has been hosting the LIV golf tournament this week.
- Trump justified hosting the Saudi-backed circuit by pointing to the US's human rights record.
Former President Donald Trump said he has no regrets about hosting the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational at his Miami golf club in an interview with The New York Times, and deflected questions about the Saudi-backed tour.
"We have human rights issues in this country too," Trump said on October 30 after reporters asked whether he was concerned about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.
Trump did not disclose to the Times how much the LIV series has paid him to host the tournament, but said golf was "very important" to the Saudi Arabian government and said, "they're putting a lot of effort into it and a lot of money into it."
"These people have great spirit, they're phenomenal people and they have unlimited money — unlimited," Trump told the Times.
LIV has received criticism for its connections to Saudi Arabia, whose government has invested $2 billion in the tour.
The oil-rich nation has received criticism for its human rights abuses, most notably the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which the CIA believes was the responsibility of the Saudi government. The country has also come under fire for its treatment of women and political dissidents.
'We've got a lot of killers'
Sarah B. Snyder, a historian of US foreign relations at American University, told Insider that Trump's comments dismissing the human rights abuses in Riyadh were in line with his previous stances on human rights. Snyder pointed to earlier interviews where Trump brushed off criticisms of Russian President Vladimir Putin by saying, "We've got a lot of killers."
Trump said at the time: "What do you think? Our country's so innocent?"
"The US record on — whether it's human rights abuses, or military interventions overseas, or kind of robust, aggressive defense of US interests, or any country's foreign policy interests — he didn't see that the United States needed to necessarily uphold a different standard," Snyder told Insider.
Snyder continued: "His willingness to support and express admiration for authoritarian governments, whether they're Vladimir Putin in Russia, or royals in Saudi Arabia, that doesn't surprise me."
Human rights groups have acknowledged that the US, like many countries, has its share of human rights issues and violations.
However, multiple, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Center for American Progress, contend that some current issues were exacerbated by Trump-era policies and rhetoric on the border, Muslims, and LGBTQ rights.
Alison Leal Parker, Managing Director for the US Program at Human Rights Watch, told Insider that "the wholesale assault" of fundamental human rights under Trump was "unprecedented."
"Every previous administration, including the current one, including the Biden administration, has been responsible for human rights violations," Parker said. "But the administration of Donald Trump is a real nadir in the history of human rights violations in the United States."
As president, Trump took measures to turn away individuals at the southern border by barring asylum seekers from entering the US and implemented a zero-tolerance policy that resulted in children being separated from their families at the border.
"Continuing to turn away and expel people seeking US refugee protection at the southern border is both a humanitarian disgrace and a legal travesty," Human Rights First researcher Kennji Kizuka told Insider at the time.
Human Rights Watch published a report in 2019 about journalists at the US-Mexico border being harassed by US officials.
Trump issued a controversial "Muslim travel ban" while in office, which barred nationals from a handful of Muslim-majority countries from entering the country without a green card or citizenship. As president, Trump insisted it was for the sake of national security, but critics have also said that Trump emboldened anti-Muslim sentiments.
Trump has also been criticized for his policies on LGBTQ rights, including his administration's role in arguing for the legalization of job discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, his response to the 2020 protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, and his rhetoric on coronavirus, which he repeatedly linked to Chinese people.
Snyder said that the presidency has historically been more intentional about considering human rights when making foreign policy decisions. The Trump administration deviated from that approach, she said.
"My assessment of his record during the campaign and in the White House would be that he does not think that one of the US government's top priorities should be the protection of human rights," Snyder said. "And there I'm talking about the protection of human rights domestically. I think he's even less concerned with the rights of people residing outside of the United States."
In comparison, Snyder said President Joe Biden has sent "strong signals about human rights" although, she says that "the meaningful exception has been its approach to Saudi Arabia."
Parker shared a similar sentiment, and also said it was partially "ridiculous" to engage with Trump's statements on foreign policy now that Biden was leading the country.
A potential future Trump presidency could foretell 'potentially damaging' human rights developments
Although Trump has not formally announced a 2024 bid, he could run for president and possibly win once again.
Snyder said that anyone who feels strongly about the protection of human rights should be concerned about what could happen in a potential next Trump presidency.
"Elections rarely turn on foreign policy issues, and certainly, I think rarely turn on questions of protection of human rights," Snyder said. "I don't know that that will be particularly influential in how people make their decisions even if a return to a Trump presidency would foretell many potentially damaging developments for human rights."
A representative for Trump did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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