News Release

White House Refusing Comment on O’Brien’s Ties to Apartheid South Africa


White House Refusing Comment on O'Brien's Ties to Apartheid South AfricaAs first reported on Thursday, just after Robert O’Brien was named National Security Advisor, he was a Rotary scholar at the University of the Free State in South Africa in 1987, a white supremacist institution at the time. O’Brien’s LinkedIn profile states that he speaks two languages: English and Afrikaans. Congress passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act over Ronald Reagan’s veto in 1986.

Today, The Guardian reports in “Robert O’Brien attended ‘routinely racist’ university in apartheid South Africa,” that “Prof Jonathan Jansen, who was vice-chancellor of the university … between 2009 and 2017, said that at the time O’Brien was a student, the institution was ‘in short … a white, Afrikaans university for people then called Afrikaners – very conservative and routinely racist not only in their policies but in their practices.’ … The national security council did not respond to a request for comment.”

BILL FLETCHER, billfletcherjr at
Fletcher is executive editor of and is former president of TransAfrica Forum.

He said today: “This appointment is obscene. It is not just a matter of the school that O’Brien attended but his assessment of apartheid South Africa condemns him to be a person not from the 21st century, but from the 19th century. Coupled with the offensive and reactionary stand of the Trump administration when it comes to the Palestinian quest — against another apartheid system — for human rights, this appointment is not simply objectionable but displays the flag of the global right-wing populist movement with which Trump is aligned.”

The Guardian also notes: ”Last year the [‘civil rights organisation that mobilizes Afrikaners’] AfriForum CEO, Kallie Kriel, caused outrage when he said that although apartheid was ‘wrong,’ not enough people had been killed during the apartheid era to justify it being called a crime against humanity.

“O’Brien was quoted in a 2017 interview with AfriForum as saying: ‘In my opinion, South Africans are the most hospitable people in the world and I have especially experienced this at [UFS].’

“O’Brien makes no mention of apartheid or his time in South Africa in his book While America Slept.

“O’Brien is reported to have met his wife while at the university.”