Donald Trump Just Called LAX a "Third World" Airport

The slums of L.A.'s Westside
The slums of L.A.'s Westside

UPDATE at 10:44 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016: Local officials respond. See the latest at the bottom. First posted at 7:01 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016.

Donald Trump said a lot of things at last night's debate that might have made you cringe, from his argument that one of his golf resorts was an example of racial inclusion to his claim that he never supported the Iraq war.

But when he compared Los Angeles International Airport to a "third world" facility, it was personal, at least in L.A.

"You land at LaGuardia, you land at Kennedy, you land at LAX, you land at Newark, and you come in from Dubai and Qatar and you see these incredible — you come in from China, you see these incredible airports, and you land — we’ve become a third-world country," he said.

Clinton responded that it's possible some American airports aren't up to international standards "maybe because you haven't paid any federal income tax for a lot of years."

Of course, "third world" is an archaic term. It represents an array of places that have pockets of immense wealth, rich culture and amazing development. Some call it the Majority World because most people live in these nations. 

Meanwhile, the modernization of infrastructure in some corners of the Middle East, China, Japan and South Korea makes us envious. Those lands often are dotted with state-of-the-art airports, roadways,  and, in some cases, bullet trains.

California has more billionaires than any other place in the world besides the United States itself and China. But wealthy people in the United States aren't always keen on paying for stuff that everybody enjoys. (Trump last night said he's "smart" for not paying federal income taxes.) Thus the Golden State has some of the worst roads and schools in the United States. And our airports aren't exactly the Apple Stores of air travel.

In fact, it's mainly folks from Trump's own political party who are the most opposed to collectively funding things like the under-construction California High Speed Rail. Just putting that out there.

But let's also be fair to LAX: It's undergoing a $14 billion renovation. That's a check Trump, even in his most braggadocious claims of wealth, couldn't write. Airport officials say it's the seventh-busiest in the world and the third most-trafficked in America, with 74.9 million souls passing through last year.

"LAX offers 742 daily nonstop flights to 101 cities in the U.S. and 1,273 weekly nonstop flights to 76 cities in 41 countries on 64 commercial air carriers," according to a boilerplate statement from the airport.

LAX officials say its economic activity pours nearly $15 billion a year into local, state and federal tax coffers, while its ongoing capital improvement program creates 121,640 jobs per year.

Last night Mayor Eric Garcetti responded to Trump's characterization. "Our city has an international terminal worthy of its name and worthy of the 15 million Angelenos who call this area home."

LAX officials also responded, via Twitter. "LAX is over here focusing on rebuilding and modernizing through teamwork and unity with our partners to bring you a world-class experience."

Trump has a home in Beverly Hills and a golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes. If he doesn't like LAX, he can always drive.

UPDATE at 10:44 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016: LAX sent us a new statement tonight.

"The characterization of LAX during last night's presidential debate was unfortunate and inaccurate," said Naomi Seligman, the airport's director of communications. "LAX is growing into one of America's finest airports, and we're investing more than $14 billion right now — the largest public works program in our city's history, funded without local tax dollars — to make it one of the most passenger-friendly, technologically-advanced travel hubs in the world. That investment includes capital renovations to eight out of the airport's nine terminals, a brand new rental car facility and a rail system that will drastically reduce traffic and transform the way Angelenos and visitors access LAX."

City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the airport area, also responded today.

"We have been working hard over the past several years to transform and dramatically improve LAX and the passenger experience," he said. "From revolutionizing the way people get to and from the airport by connecting it to Metro rail, to upgrading terminals, to making the runways safer (without moving them!) we are making LAX the world-class airport and first-class neighbor LA can be proud of. And we're doing it without stiffing any of our contractors."

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