Donald Trump will continue to make his pitch to African-Americans on Wednesday night in deep-red Mississippi. But the venue isn’t the most puzzling aspect of the event – he’ll be accompanied by Nigel Farage, the former head of the nationalist UK Independence Party who was accused of racism during his successful campaign encouraging UK to withdraw from the European Union.
Farage confirmed a Sky News report that he’d be appearing at Trump’s evening rally in Jackson, Mississippi. Farage said he was already in Jackson, and would be attending a dinner before the rally, where he planned to tell the “story of Brexit.”
The UK politician won’t be endorsing Trump, however. Farage indicated in an interview he felt such a move would be hypocritical after he condemned President Obama for wading into the Brexit campaign by urging UK citizens to vote to remain in the EU.
It’s unclear how exactly his appearance at Trump’s Mississippi event came about — Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Sky News she would “highly doubt” there would be a joint appearance between the two and didn’t know anything about it.
She did not respond to an NBC News request for comment.
But it’s not entirely unexpected — Trump embraced the successful Brexit vote on a visit to Scotland shortly after, hailing it as a precursor to his own success this November.
“They took their country back, just like we will take America back,” he tweeted at the time. And last week, he cryptically tweeted: “They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!”
Indeed, there have been many similarities between Trump’s supporters and those who favored the Brexit. Both seized on deep dissatisfaction with politics as usual, the establishment, and failures of government to address their citizens’ concerns. And both tapped the frustration, bordering on fear, of the influx of immigrants from outside the nation and concerns over their effects on citizens’ safety and economic prospects.
Farage drew fierce criticism in particular for his tactics to harness the latter, which opponents said amounted to racism. Farage commissioned a poster for the campaign that displayed a line of largely non-white migrants with the text: “The EU has failed us all. We must break free of the EU and take back control.” He also argued UK employers should be able to discriminate between British citizens and migrants when hiring.
That could complicate Trump’s already rocky attempt to broaden his appeal to minorities, part of an effort to make up for considerable lost ground to Democrat Hillary Clinton over the month of August.
With Trump singing a different tune from his stridently anti-immigrant message during the primary — he has softened his stance on immigration reform in recent days, moving away from advocating for mass deportations and allowing some leniency for law-abiding undocumented immigrants — Farage’s appearance could be an awkward reminder of Trump’s inconsistencies on the issue.