Trump comparing himself to Nelson Mandela slammed as ‘slap in the face’ to South African leader’s legacy

“It is a desperate cry for attention that we will see more from this extremist leader as the election gets closer," Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist, tells theGrio.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump compared himself to Nelson Mandela on Saturday in an attempt to defend himself against his upcoming hush money criminal fraud trial in New York.

Trump faces criminal charges that he violated campaign finance law ahead of the 2016 election to silence two women who allege he had an extramarital affair. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for opposing racial apartheid that segregated Black residents in South Africa, later becoming the country’s first elected president and first Black head of state in 1994.

In a post on his social media app, Trump likened his legal woes to Mandela, which drew strong reactions from Black organizers.

“It’s a slap in the face to the legacy and sacrifices of Nelson Mandela and the worldwide impact his life experiences have had on people” around the globe, Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, told theGrio in reaction to Trump’s comments.

“It is a desperate cry for attention that we will see more from this extremist leader as the election gets closer.” 

Nelson Mandela (center) campaigns during the first democratic election, Cape Town, South Africa, 1995. (Photo by Susan Winters Cook/Getty Images)

Similarly, Angela Angel, senior advisor for Black Lives Matter PAC, told theGrio that Trump comparing himself to Mandela “is like comparing a circus clown to a Nobel laureate.”

“One spent nearly three decades in prison fighting against apartheid, and the other should be in prison for fraud, sexual assault, and orchestrating an attempted coup on the United States government.”

On his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump bemoaned a gag order issued by New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, the judge overseeing the former president’s hush money trial. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up the hush money payments made by his former lawyer Michael Cohen to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Trump, known for his public assails against judges and prosecutors, was placed on a gag order to avoid intimidating potential witnesses or jurors involved in the criminal trial that begins April 15. 

“If this Partisan Hack wants to put me in the ‘clink’ for speaking the open and obvious TRUTH, I will gladly become a Modern Day Nelson Mandela – It will be my GREAT HONOR,” Trump wrote on Saturday. “We have to Save our Country from these Political Operatives masquerading as Prosecutors and Judges, and I am willing to sacrifice my Freedom for that worthy cause.”

Seawright, who has advised several national campaigns, called Trump’s latest statements “disgusting” and “disrespectful.” He compared the former president’s behavior to a “baby throwing the bottle out of the crib in order to get attention, but also to distract people in the room from what else is going on inside the crib.”

He added, “It’s just another page in the catalog of examples of Trump’s strategy to say whatever to get attention from wherever.”

Angel of BLM PAC said Trump’s legacy, in comparison to Mandela, who helped to end racial segregation in South Africa and promote peace around the world, “has been marked by policies and rhetoric that targeted marginalized communities, including Black, Indigenous, and all people of color.”

“His administration’s actions, such as the Muslim travel ban, harsh immigration policies, and inflammatory statements regarding racial and ethnic groups, have exacerbated divisions and undermined efforts towards equality and justice,” Angel said. “His leadership style has been characterized by authoritarian tendencies, attacks on democratic institutions, and a disregard for human rights principles, leading to widespread condemnation both domestically and internationally.”

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She added, “He is not respected at home or abroad, and he weakens our global standing.”

President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign also slammed the four-time indicted and two-time impeached former Republican president for his comparison to Mandela.

“Imagine being so self-centered that you compare yourself to Jesus Christ and Nelson Mandela all within the span of little more than a week: that’s Donald Trump for you,” said Jasmine Harris, director of Black media for the 2024 Biden-Harris campaign.

Harris referenced statements Trump made days before Easter, in which he shared an alleged text message he received that pointed out how “ironic” it was that “Christ walked through His greatest persecution the very week they are trying to steal your property from you.” The comment was in reference to New York Attorney General Letitia James’ threat to seize Trump’s properties in a separate fraud case if he did not pay a nearly half-a-billion-dollar bond that was later reduced to $175 million.

In the hush money case, Merchan, the judge whom Trump has decried as corrupt over his daughter’s work as a Democratic political consultant, expanded the presidential candidate’s gag order to include not making public statements about family members of the judge and prosecutors connected to the case. 

Though Trump and his attorneys argue the gag order violates his First Amendment right, Merchan said it was decided out of concern that his statements to his millions of followers will “interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitutes a direct attack on the Rule of Law itself.”

Anthony Coley, a legal analyst and former Department of Justice official, told theGrio that Trump is “creating this drama in the court of public opinion — playing the victim, trying to provoke the judge — because he has a weak hand in the court of law.”

He added, “He’s facing criminal accountability and a real prospect of jail time because of his own actions, and no amount of grandstanding can change that.”

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