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FactCheck: Did Enda Kenny really never call Donald Trump "racist"?

In advance of his meeting with the US President, the Taoiseach was confronted with comments he made last year. FactCheck takes a look.

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THE TAOISEACH WAS confronted with comments he had apparently made about Donald Trump some months ago, while facing questions from Irish journalists during his St Patrick’s Week visit to Washington DC, last night.

Earlier in the day former UKIP leader Nigel Farage told RTE Radio One Enda Kenny should apologise to Donald Trump for calling him “racist”.

Kenny denied this last night, claiming:

I did not refer to the person of the now-President as being racist. My comment was in respect of his language.

Let’s have a look at that.

(Send your FactCheck requests to factcheck@thejournal.ie, tweet @TJ_FactCheck, or send us a DM).

Claim: Enda Kenny did not call Donald Trump “racist”

What was said:

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Many politicians and commentators have accused the Taoiseach of calling Trump “racist”, since his comments last May.

On Wednesday, the issue came to prominence once again after Nigel Farage told Seán O’Rourke the Taoiseach should apologise to Trump for calling him “racist”.

Later on, the Taoiseach’s past remarks were put to him at a press conference in Washington DC, and Kenny told reporters, including TheJournal.ie’s Christina Finn:

I did not refer to the person of the now-President as being racist. My comment was in respect of his language.

Kenny was pressed by one journalist who asked “But if someone’s language is racist, are they not racist?”

The Taoiseach insisted:

No, it doesn’t follow at all. Language and words can be used by people in many regards…

The Facts

You can watch a short video including all the relevant comments, below, but for now, let’s examine what Enda Kenny said in the first place.

In the Dáil on 31 May 2016, the Taoiseach faced questions from TDs about his planned official engagements. In the course of that, Solidarity-PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett asked:

Given the racist, dangerous, reckless rhetoric and policies articulated by Donald Trump, if it comes about that he becomes the President of the United States, I’m asking would we continue to facilitate US troops at Shannon airport?

Later, Kenny replied:

If Trump’s comments are racist and dangerous, which they are, there is an alternative to vote for.

It’s unclear what comments in particular the Taoiseach was referring to, or whether he had specific comments in mind. We asked the Taoiseach’s press office for clarification on this, but we did not receive a response.

In any event, it’s quite clear that Kenny referred to Trump’s comments, and not Trump himself, as racist and dangerous.

Assessment

Source: PA Wire/PA Images

It could be argued that a person who makes a racist comment, or racist comments, is by definition racist as a person, and that by calling Trump’s comments racist, Enda Kenny was by definition calling Trump himself racist.

However, this is a subjective interpretation, and even at that, it’s not entirely convincing.

A person could, for example, make a racist comment in a subversive or ironic way. It would be difficult to maintain that this person is by definition racist.

Equally, a person could make racially bigoted remarks, but later entirely abandon the views that gave rise to those comments. It would also be difficult to maintain that this person is racist, simply by virtue of having made racist comments.

This is not to make any claim about the nature of President Trump’s views, policies or past comments.

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It is simply to point out that describing a person’s comments in one way does not mean that you are, in the mere act of describing their comments, by definition or logical necessity also describing that person in the same way.

Obviously, one very often follows the other. But not necessarily or by definition.

Even if we are to leave that aside, we are left with the wording of Enda Kenny’s statement last May, when he called Trump’s comments, but not Trump himself, “racist and dangerous”.

We find the Taoiseach’s claim – that he never called Trump racist – Mostly TRUE.

As our verdicts guide explains, this means:

The claim is close to accurate, but is missing significant details or context. Or, the best available evidence weighs in favour of the claim.

This is the 12th time we’ve fact-checked a claim by Enda Kenny. You can read his FactCheck File here.

FactCheck File Enda Kenny 17_03_16

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here.

For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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