Donald Trump has a habit of using kind words to describe authoritarian world leaders — despite issues like human rights abuses, anti-democratic policies, and violence against their own people. Here are ten that Trump has been positive on, either in his words or through his actions.
Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines Trump had a phone call with Filippino President Duterte, and apparently in an unscripted moment, invited him to the White House. Duterte is an admitted mass murderer, known for his extrajudicial killings of hundreds of drug users in his battle against the drug trade.
Saddam Hussein, Iraq Trump said during his campaign that the Iraq War was a failure, and the world would be better off with Hussein in power. “He was a bad guy -- really bad guy,” Trump said during a December 2016 rally. “But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn't read them the rights. They didn't talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism.” Trump also said of Hussein using chemical weapons to massacre as many as 5,000 Iraqi Kurds, “"Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy, 'oh he's using gas!'"
Kim Jong Un, North Korea Despite North Korean missile tests and even talk of potential war with the country, Trump still has kind words for Kim. "And at a very young age, he was able to assume power," he said. "A lot of people, I'm sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie."
Vladimir Putin, Russia Trump has infamously never said an unkind word about Putin, a leader known for human rights abuses, since becoming a candidate for president. As a candidate, Trump repeatedly called Putin a stronger leader than President Barack Obama. "You can say, 'Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing,' I mean, the man has very strong control over his country," Trump said at a national security forum in 2016. "Now it's a very different system, and I don't happen to like the system, but certainly in that system he's been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader."
In an interview with MSNBC, Trump didn't change his tune when reminded that Putin has had journalists and dissenters killed, instead saying, "I think our country does plenty of killing, also."
Bashar al-Assad, Syria Although Trump bombed a Syrian airfield in April in response to a gas attack on Syrian civilians, he previously praised Assad as being a stronger leader than Obama, and for fighting ISIS. "I think in terms of leadership, he's getting an A and our president is not doing so well," Trump said in September 2015.
"If these politicians went to the beach and didn't do a thing and we had Saddam Hussein and if we had Gaddafi in charge, instead of having terrorism all over the place, we'd be -- at least they killed terrorists, all right?" Trump went on. "And I'm not saying they were good, because they were bad, they were really bad, but we don't know what we're getting."
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey Turkey narrowly passed a referendum that grants Erdogan a great deal of additional powers, pushing the country away from democracy and toward authoritarianism. Trump called Erdogan to congratulate him on the victory. He also invited Erdogan to the White House.
Benito Mussolini, Italy Trump retweeted a quote from the fascist Axis power dictator, then defended it in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press." "I want to be associated with interesting quotes," Trump said of the retweet, and stated it didn't matter who said it.
Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt Though it’s known that el-Sissi has ordered the murders of his opponents and has clamped down on dissent and women’s rights, Trump invited the Egyptian president to the White House in April. During the meeting, Trump said, “I’ve had a deep appreciation and admiration of your unique personality, especially as you’re standing very strong in the counter-terrorism field.”
1980s Communist Chinese Government Trump's authoritarian-praising comments go back decades. He called the Chinese government's 1989 massacre of protesters a show of strength. "When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it," Trump said in a 1990 interview in Playboy. "Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength."