The photo went viral. People said it had to be fake. Then the photographer came forward and proved it was totally real.
In what may go down in history as one of the most perfectly symbolic images to capture Trump’s utter contempt for the poor, a photo of his giant grinning mug overlooking a scene of abject poverty near the site of his new, glitzy Trump Tower in Mumbai has surfaced online and is causing a firestorm.
In the photo, a Trump Tower Mumbai ad shows the future president seated in a gold-plated chair smiling in one of his custom business suits. Next to him a caption reads “There is only one way to live. The Trump way.”
Below the billboard are homeless children living on filthy mattresses in unimaginable poverty. Living the “Trump way” must seem like a cruel joke to them.
When the photo first began to go viral, a number of skeptics declared it false. It had to be right? No way could a single image capture such a stunning juxtaposition of decadent sneering and total human misery. Snopes, the site meant to fact-check other sites, got it wrong, declaring the photo “false” and suggesting it was photoshopped.
The photographer came forward and set the record straight. He had taken the photo, as shown, during his time in Mumbai and even had other shots of the same location to prove it. Here’s another shot he sent to Snopes as verification.
Digging into the tale of Trump Tower Mumbai reveals that it’s not just the billboards that mock the poor, Trump’s lust for wealth led to truly horrific acts as well. To make room for the fancy new apartment complex – complete with a complementary private jet for its rich residents – they had to forcibly remove the poor people who had previously lived in the area.
“…nothing happened until 2010. Then the developers came and informed us to vacate the building so that they could develop it.”
Mr Panvalkar told me that his wife took the lead and flatly refused to move out.
“The developers offered compensation money and asked us to leave. Smita told them we won’t leave the building unless they gave us an apartment in the new building. Much later we learnt that the building was named after Donald Trump, the famous American tycoon,” he said.
Of course, the developers (and Trump) didn’t want poor people living in their gold-encrusted building, so they dismissed the idea of giving these families rooms out of hand. In an astounding act of courage, the Panvalkar family refused to move, holding up the project for six years amid personal tragedy and pressure to give in. Finally, Trump, losing money “bigly,” backed out of his deal and moved on to another developer who went ahead with the plans elsewhere. In 2014, the BBC notes, Trump visited for the first time and briefly looked around before saying “Your real estate is unbelievably cheap.”
It certainly is when human lives aren’t treated with the same amount of respect as a bank account.
Featured image via Paul Needham