Until last week, Louise Linton was a little-known Scottish actress living in California, whose most prominent roles were guest spots in the television shows "CSI: NY" and "Cold Case" and the movies "Intruder" and "Cabin Fever."
Now, thanks to a self-published memoir she wrote about her experiences volunteering in Africa when she was 18, she's become the target of outrage and mockery on social media. On top of her literary missteps, Buzzfeed has discovered that she’s dating Donald Trump’s finance chief.
The trouble began with an article by Linton that appeared in the Telegraph in the UK on July 1 under the headline "How my dream gap year in Africa turned into a nightmare," accompanied by a photo of the blond actress.
The article was meant to promote Linton's book, “In Congo's Shadow: One Girl's Perilous Journey to the Heart of Africa," co-written with author Wendy Holden, which was published via Amazon’s self-publishing platform CreateSpace in the U.S. in April.
In the article, Linton, who was in Zambia, described hiding from armed rebels as a nearby village was being attacked. "As the night ticked interminably by, I tried not to think what the rebels would do to the 'skinny white muzungu with long angel hair’ if they found me," she writes, using a Swahili word for a foreigner of European heritage.
"Life was idyllic at first," Linton writes, "[b]ut I soon learned that Africa is rife with hidden danger. I witnessed random acts of violence, contracted malaria and had close encounters with lions, elephants, crocodiles and snakes."
The reaction to Linton's article was swift and negative, accusing her of using clichés and misrepresentations.
On Twitter, the hashtag #LintonLies caught on, as some users accused Linton of not being truthful in her memoir, which claims that violence between the warring Hutu and Tutsi people had spilled from the Congo into Zambia.
In the Guardian, Zambian writer Lydia Ngoma raised several questions about the accuracy of Linton's account.
"As a Zambian, the whole article just made me cringe," Ngoma wrote. "But on a more serious level, it also made me wonder just how many other countries around the world people like her have falsely documented and gained credit for?"
Several people have described Linton's memoir as a "white savior" fantasy. In the Washington Post, Karen Attiah writes that Linton “may have written the defining work of the White-Savior-in-Africa genre for the digital age…. she deploys, with maximum flourish, just about every lazy trope there is when it comes to writing about Africa."
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On Tuesday, Linton offered an apology on Twitter, writing, "I am genuinely dismayed and very sorry to see that I have offended people as this was the very opposite of my intent."
While Linton has since deleted her Twitter account, she will likely remain in the public eye, thanks to her relationship with Steven Mnuchin, the hedge-fund manager who serves as the national finance chair of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Linton told the Edinburgh Evening News that she had dined with Trump, calling him "charming and engaging."
The controversy over Linton's book has helped the author sell copies — as of Wednesday morning, it moved from #1,230 in Amazon's memoir category up to #916.
But the questions about the book's veracity definitely haven't earned it positive reviews on the retail site. It currently has a ranking of 1.4 out of five stars.
"If you've read the [T]elegraph excerpt and have at least half a brain you can see the string of every possible stereotype of life in Africa: jungle canopy, vines with killer 12-inch spiders, orphan girl with AIDS, rebel soldiers and so on and so on," one reviewer wrote. "This is 2016. We all know better than cling on to that drivel."
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