So last week, Jeff Mason, Reuters’ White House correspondent and two other reporters were apparently hanging out in the Oval Office with Donald Trump.
Ostensibly, they were there to interview him.
One of the topics under discussion was Chinese President Xi Jinping, and while Trump was willing to talk about that, he apparently got sick of it about halfway through and decided to steer the interview towards more important things. Things like his Electoral College margin.
“Midway through a discussion about Xi, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map,” Reuters wrote last week, recounting the bizarre scene.
“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” Trump told Mason, before asking “it’s pretty good right?”
“The red is obviously me,” he added, in case that was somehow unclear to Reuters.
Well, now we learn that another group of people had what’s being described as a “weird” close encounter of the Trump kind in the Oval Office last week. Those people are the 2017 Teachers of the Year who, in a time-honored tradition, met with the president.
Now usually, there’s a ceremony in the East Room or the Rose Garden that, naturally, focuses on the teachers.
But not this year.
This year, the teachers were herded into the Oval Office where they were forced to sing “Happy Birthday” to Melania.
No, seriously. Here’s WaPo:
Trump’s rather weird meeting with the 2017 Teachers of the Year
It’s a time-honored tradition: U.S. presidents, every year, take some time to meet the 2017 state Teachers of the Year and single out the national winner. But things went a little differently Wednesday when President Trump welcomed this year’s winners to the White House.
Usually, the National Teacher of the Year speaks. This year, that didn’t happen. Usually, the president spends some time talking with the teachers, giving many of them individual attention. Usually family members join the winners to meet the president. This time few were allowed — and relatives of the teachers, some who had traveled at their own expense for many hours to attend, were left to wait in a building near the White House, with, as one said, “no water in the hot rooms.”
Rather than a ceremony in the East Room or the Rose Garden, as past presidents have done, Trump invited the teachers into the Oval Office, where he asked them all to gather around him, standing, while he sat at his desk.
In the crowd were first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. It was the first lady’s birthday, and the teachers sang “Happy Birthday” to her.
At one point, one of the state winners, Abdul Wright from Minnesota, asked Trump whether the group could sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called the “Black National Anthem.” Trump, according to the Star Tribune, agreed, and thanked Wright for leading the song. Wright was quoted by the newspaper as saying:
- “Yesterday superseded politics. Yesterday was about values, yesterday was about the human experience, yesterday was about the human heart. And I think we got caught up in that.”
The White House did not respond to a query about the event.
In the Oval Office, with the teachers and others standing around him, Trump spoke about the teachers and engaged with a few of them (see video above), and briefly singled out the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, from Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Mass. A ninth-grade teacher, she is the first national winner from a charter school in the program’s 65-year history, and the first from Massachusetts. While the other teachers applauded, she accepted a trophy from Trump, who remained seated during the presentation.
Chaffee was not invited to offer remarks.
According to a pool report from White House reporters, Trump said to Chaffee: “That is really something special,” and he thanked the teachers for singing to his wife. He also said, continuing to remain seated, “You’re all great, great teachers.”
That’s obviously funny enough as it is, but the real punchline comes when we learn that the teachers who spoke to WaPo only agreed to do so on the condition their identities weren’t revealed because they feared reprisal from the the administration.
Here’s WaPo again:
The participants agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because they said they fear Trump addressing them on Twitter or press secretary Sean Spicer bringing them up at a daily briefing.