Trump Jr: "I love" Indian media, but US media? Not so much

Trump Jr: I
Donald Trump Jr, the eldest son of President Donald Trump, attends an event at the Trump Tower in Mumbai, India, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. For over a week the front pages of many Indian newspapers have promised that buyers who put down a deposit for an apartment in the new Trump Towers in a New Delhi suburb will get to spend Friday evening being wined and dined by Trump Jr. But the money had to be paid, the ads said, before Thursday. (AP Photo)

NEW DELHI (AP) — The U.S. president’s eldest son heaped praise on the Indian media Friday, and accused American journalists of unfair criticism, as he neared the end of a whirlwind trip across India promoting Trump-brand luxury real estate.

Donald Trump Jr. said at an Indian business summit that life since his father’s election “has been difficult from a family standpoint,” but that he’d enjoyed the coverage he’d received during this trip.

“I love the Indian media. They are so mild and nice,” he said to audience laughter.

Trump has met with carefully selected Indian reporters since coming to India, with coverage often focusing on the promised luxury of the real estate developments he is selling.

Hours earlier, as criticism mounted that Trump Jr. was pushing an ethics boundary by making what seemed to be a foreign policy speech at the Global Business Summit, conference organizers hurriedly changed the speech’s title.

Very quickly, “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The Era of Cooperation” became “A Fireside Chat with Donald Trump Jr. “

With summer already approaching, it’s far too warm for cozy fires in New Delhi. But flames flickered on a video screen behind Trump as he was interviewed by a TV anchor with the channel co-hosting the business summit.

Critics had said that Trump Jr. airing his views on international relations, especially while sharing a platform with senior Indian government officials — including Prime Minister Narendra Modi — was problematic because of the implication that he has his father’s ear.

“I am concerned that Mr. Trump’s speech will send the mistaken message that he is speaking on behalf of the president, the administration or the United States government, not as a private individual, or that he is communicating official American policy,” Sen. Robert Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a letter earlier this week to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

Menendez said he expects that the U.S. State Department and the embassy will treat Trump Jr. like any other American on private business and “will take every effort to avoid any perception of special treatment or a conflict of interest.”

On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Lindsay E. Walters said the Trump administration “takes seriously its obligation to ensure that government resources are not used to provide a private benefit to anyone.”

“Donald Trump Jr. is a private individual and neither the State Department nor the White House has provided any support for this trip beyond coordinating with his Secret Service protection,” Walters said.

Trump Jr.’s India visit has already raised ethical concerns.

President Trump has pledged to stay away from any new foreign business deals during his term in office to avoid potential ethical conflicts. While the projects that Trump Jr. is promoting in India were inked before his father was elected, ethics experts have long seen the use of the Trump name to promote even existing business ventures as tricky territory.

Trump Jr. and his brother Eric have been running the Trump Organization, the family’s real estate business, during their father’s presidency.

Since Tuesday, Trump Jr. has been traveling to four Indian cities to meet business partners and buyers in the luxury residential projects that bear his family’s name.

With five ventures under the Trump brand, India has the company’s largest number of projects outside the United States. The Trump Organization charges a licensing fee to its Indian partners who build the properties under the Trump name. A luxury complex is already open in the central city of Pune while the others are in varying stages of construction in Mumbai and Kolkata and two in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon.

Trump Jr. has dismissed claims that his family business is benefiting from his father’s presidency.