- By Kavitha SuranaKavitha Surana is a fellow at Foreign Policy. She has reported from Italy, Germany, and Senegal and her stories have been published in the past by the Associated Press, Quartz, Al Jazeera, CNN, GlobalPost and OZY. She holds a joint master’s degree in journalism and European and Mediterranean studies from New York University.
Last night’s debate had much of the world watching in awe and dismay at the spectacle of U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton trading intensely personal barbs on the stage.
Still, at least one international figure was happy to claim Trump’s performance as a great success: Nigel Farage, the U.K.’s Brexit poster boy. He’s an avid fanboy of the real estate mogul, won over by Trump’s talk of a border wall and Muslim ban.
And last night, Farage unleashed a stream of video clips on his Twitter feed lauding Trump’s debate performance and even likening him to a “big silverback gorilla, prowling the studio.”
Soon after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union, Farage relinquished his post as head of the U.K. Independence Party, but he still relishes his role as a thorn in the side of the “political establishment,” both at home and abroad.
Ahead of the debate in St. Louis this week, he tried to lend Trump some insight from Brexit’s unexpected success, tweeting out support to the GOP candidate who came under fire earlier this week after the publication of a 2005 recording where he lewdly described his apparent history of sexual assault. Farage’s advice? Ignore personal attacks and focus on a plan for strong border control — a key pillar of the Brexit campaign was whipping up xenophobic fears.
And Trump’s leaked comments about forcing himself on women didn’t seem to bother Farage in the least. “You know what, he’s not running to be Pope,” he told Fox News.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 8, 2016
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) October 9, 2016
After the debate Farage could be found making the rounds with reporters, propping up his preferred “gorilla” candidate.
“Frankly, I thought he dominated the debates,” he told Fox News. “So much so, that Hillary Clinton never really got going tonight at all.”
After all, he argued, Trump should be cut a bit of slack for his widely-panned first debate performance. As a newly minted 70-year-old politician, this was his first rodeo.
“I’ve been there myself. I remember my first big debate,” Farage offered. “How nervous I felt, how out of my depth I felt.”
This time he found Trump comfortable with the cameras. “He knew his subject, and he was even funny — he even got a laugh,” he said. Farage offered no analysis on Trump’s strategy of looming over Clinton while she interacted with audience members, but concluded that Trump had overall left a good impression as “the kind of guy that could be charge.”
As for those who had doubted Trump — such as the growing number of Republican lawmakers who disavowed him in the wake of the vulgar leaked comments — Farage gingerly suggested they might “be feeling a little bit silly” now.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) October 10, 2016
Photo credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images