Music Matters
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Obama: Trump, Brexit Vote Both Tap Into Fear Of 'Funny-Looking People'

President Obama says he agrees with Donald Trump on one thing: There are "parallels" between the U.S. election and the United Kingdom's dramatic vote to leave the European Union.

Obama describes the parallels differently, however. Trump described Britons "taking their country back." Obama says the Brexit vote and Trump's campaign both are marked by "xenophobia" and a fear of "funny-looking people."

Obama spoke during a wide-ranging interview with NPR in which he critiqued Trump several times.

In other parts of the conversation, he said Trump "embodies global elites" and is not a "legitimate spokesperson for a populist surge from working-class people, on either side of the Atlantic."

His additional remarks, as seen in this video, were even more scathing.

"I think that some of the concerns around immigration, some of the concerns around a loss of control or a loss of national identity, those are similar," Obama said. "I think there is a xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment that is splashing up not just in Great Britain but throughout Europe, that has some parallels with what Mr. Trump has been trying to stir up here."

Obama went on to express confidence that the U.S. election would not have the same results as in the U.K. and Europe. For one thing, he said, the American economy is stronger.

"Overall, I think that the differences are greater than the similarities. But what is absolutely true is that the ability to tap into a fear that people may have about losing control, and it offers some sort of vague, nostalgic feelings about how, you know, we'll make Britain great again or will make America great again. And the subtext for that is somehow that a bunch of foreigners, funny-looking people are coming in here and changing the basic character of the nation — I think that some of that is out there, both in Europe and the United States."

NPR has several times invited Trump to respond to Obama's attack. As of this writing, Trump's staff has yet to respond.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.