Donald Trump Jr, the US President’s eldest son, has found time on his controversial business trip to India to compliment the country’s poor for their smiles.
“I don’t mean to be glib about it, but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face,” Mr Trump Jr said on February 20 (local time) in an interview with CNBC’s Indian affiliate.
“It’s a different spirit that you don’t see in other parts of the world … and I think there’s something unique about that.”
Despite a rising number of millionaires, in 2016 the country’s per capita income was around $US2000 ($2500), compared to around $US55,000 ($69,600) in Australia.
Mr Trump Jr, who was born and raised in Manhattan and flew to New Delhi on his family’s private jet, called on personal experience to ram home his ‘money can’t buy happiness’ point.
“I know some of the most successful businessmen in the world, and some of them are the most miserable people in the world,” he said.
The comment has drawn heat from media outlets including The Washington Post and NBC.
British radio host James O’Brien said: “Donald Trump Jr is what you get when Gareth from The Office thinks he’s Gordon Gekko.”
— Stop Trump 🍷 (@StopTrump2020) February 21, 2018
Mr Trump Jr may have thought he was complimenting India’s poor, Goa paediatrician and charity founder Dr Luis Dias told media outlet NPR.
“It’s condescending and makes a sweeping statement about a demographic he has never really seen or spent time with, either in India or the rest of the world,” Dr Dias said.
South India social worker Senthil Babu said, “A statement like this is very misleading, because it implies that poverty is a desirable state of being, that the poor are grateful and content.”
Mr Trump Jr’s visit has raised conflict of interest concerns over his use of his family name to sell $US1 billion worth of luxury Trump Tower projects in four Indian cities.
The Trumps have a licensing deal for two towers outside New Delhi, where luxury apartments with private lifts and concierge services cost up to $2 million.
Prospective buyers were invited via glossy newspaper ads to pay around $38,000 as a deposit on an apartment.
The carrot? An invitation to “join Mr Donald Trump Jr for a conversation and dinner” on February 23.
“Trump has arrived. Have you?” read the advertisement.
Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said: “Trump’s company is literally selling access to the president’s son overseas.”
Donald Trump Jr.’s tour through India is staggeringly corrupt https://t.co/ahUqDTmhlc
— Vox (@voxdotcom) February 21, 2018
Mr Trump Jr dismissed as “nonsense” suggestions his family is profiting from his father’s presidency.
He said the company was missing out on deals in its biggest international market because of self-imposed restrictions to avoid such perceptions of conflicts of interest.
“It’s sort of a shame. Because we put on all these impositions on ourselves and essentially got no credit for actually doing that,” he told CNBC.
Mr Trump Jr plans to address a global business summit slated to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.
US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert clarified the president’s son is in India as a private citizen, “not as an official of US government in any capacity”.