I wouldn’t want to be Theresa May on Friday.
Donald Trump has variously insisted that the historical “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K. hasn’t suffered from his withering criticism of the country’s migrant policies and generalized support of the sentiments that led directly to Brexit. But it has – suffered that is.
Trump’s ongoing feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan underscores the palpable tension. On Friday, Khan refused to get down in the rhetorical trenches with Trump after the President again criticized the Mayor’s handling of security during an inflammatory interview with The Sun newspaper. Specifically, Trump said this:
Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think (Khan) has done a very bad job on terrorism.
In response, Khan told CNBC the following on Friday morning:
The great thing about our city is you can have a fraternal and positive relationship with a country and its citizens but disagree in a mature and adult way with the president.
Actually, you can’t disagree with Trump “in a mature and adult way”, because Trump demonstrates that he is not “a mature adult” on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.
In that same interview with The Sun, Trump of course humiliated Theresa May by not only criticizing her approach to Brexit, but by explicitly endorsing Boris Johnson for Prime Minister.
The history between Trump and May is just as contentious as it is laughable. Last November, for instance, Trump retweeted a series of unsubstantiated anti-Muslim videos originally posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First who was facing charges of inciting religiously aggravated harassment. Here are those retweets:
Literally no one thought that was a good idea. Not even Breitbart:
Yeah, someone might want to tell whoever is running Trump's Twitter account this morning that retweeting Britain First is not great optics. 🤔
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) November 29, 2017
Then, following a series of equally egregious but unrelated tweets about the media, Theresa May herself chastised Trump for his implicit support of Fransen:
NEW: Downing Street on Pres. Trump's retweets of anti-Muslim videos tweeted by figure from extremist British group: "It is wrong for the President to have done this." https://t.co/Bdz3O40csK pic.twitter.com/Ttsiikh34Z
— ABC News (@ABC) November 29, 2017
Sarah Huckabee Sanders took the absurdity up a notch, claiming that it didn’t matter whether the videos were fake or not, because the threat is real. Obviously, that’s so ridiculous that it eludes attempts to criticize it.
Well, unable to let it go, Trump lashed out at May. Or at least he thought he did. But Trump being Trump, he accidentally tweeted to the wrong Theresa May (this is not her Twitter handle):
And that was hardly the first time the Prime Minister was forced to distance herself from the U.S. President.
But Thursday’s interview with The Sun took things up another notch. It was published just as May was finishing up a gala dinner with Trump, making the timing especially unfortunate.
Given all of this, it’s probably safe to say that May was not looking forward to holding a joint press conference with Trump on Friday and while she did “enjoy” some backhanded praise, the spectacle was something to behold in light of the fact that it came just hours after the interview with The Sun.
Trump, speaking alongside May, characterized the relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. as sitting at “the highest level of special”. Here’s Trump to walk you through the process whereby you “start off at special” and you end up “at the highest levels” of that superlative:
He would go on to clarify that what he actually meant when he suggested that May was doing a terrible job was that she is “doing a terrific job.”
Pressed to reconcile those two diametrically opposed assessments, Trump claimed The Sun is in fact “fake news” and that he has the full recording of the interview “for your enjoyment”. Here’s the clip – “for your enjoyment”:
Trump also took the opportunity to remind reporters that when it comes to people who are doing fantastic things, he, like Frederick Douglass, is an example of someone who is “doing a great job”.
Finally, in the coup de covfefe, Trump refused to take a question from CNN, and insisted on Fox instead, because you know, Fox News is the only “real” news.
“Let’s go to a real network,” Trump says, declining to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta during a joint press conference with U.K. PM Theresa May. He answered a question from Fox News instead #tictocnews pic.twitter.com/nTAxI2fKvV
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) July 13, 2018