There’s perhaps never a bad time to stretch or rethink one’s vocabulary.
The term “globalist” has been used at the White House at least three times this week in reference to an outgoing Jewish Trump administration official, raising some eyebrows because the word is increasingly used in xenophobic and anti-Semitic contexts.
The word came up on Wednesday when a reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders whether a similar candidate will take the place of Gary Cohn, the outgoing director of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council.
“He was a noted free trader, a globalist. Will the president seek another globalist, another free trader?” Fox News reporter John Roberts asked.
This followed Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, using the word “globalist,” in quotation marks, to describe Cohn in a statement that was tweeted by his department on Tuesday.
Mulvaney’s statement also noted that he was surprised to get along with Cohn, who he said ended up being “one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with.”
Twitter users didn’t hold back in expressing concern over the choice of language.
The third instance came during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, when Trump lauded Cohn as “a globalist,” while adding, “but I still like him.”
“He’s been terrific,” Trump said. “He may be a globalist, but I still like him. He’s seriously globalist, there’s no question, but you know what, in his own way he’s also a nationalist because he loves our country.”
The term can be used to describe someone who has universal or open-world beliefs, particularly in regard to trade or public policies, but it can carry a more sinister meaning for members of the far right.
For the anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi members of the so-called “alt-right” white supremacist movement, “globalist” is a euphemism for “Jew.” It refers to the longstanding conspiracy theory about an international Jewish cabal working to undermine the traditional white family and Western culture by pushing for immigration and diversity.
A glossary of extremist language published by The New York Times places “globalism” among terms like “alt-right,” “antifa” and “cuck.”
“For the far right, globalism has long had distinct xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Semitic overtones,” the article states. “It refers to a conspiratorial worldview: a cabal that likes open borders, diversity and weak nation states, and that dislikes white people, Christianity and the traditional culture of their own country.”
Figures such as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Trump have used the term as a dog whistle for their followers. Just before the 2016 election, Trump delivered a campaign speech in which he described Hillary Clinton as working with globalists to “plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty.”
Its use on Wednesday, again on the national stage, led to renewed concern on social media ― in particular, that the word is being normalized or “mainstreamed.”
This story has been updated to include Trump’s use of the word on Thursday.