While President Trump spoke over the phone with Ireland’s new prime minister Leo Varadkar Tuesday, congratulating him on his recent win, he made eye contact with a female reporter in the room.
“We have a lot of your Irish press watching us right now,” President Trump told Varadkar, informing him that the whole conversation was taking place in a room full of journalists with cameras running.
He pointed at Irish reporter Caitríona Perry, U.S. bureau chief for RTÉ News, telling her to come over to his desk.
“We have all of this beautiful Irish press,” Trump said to the prime minister, and asked Perry, “Where are you from?”
Perry approached Trump and introduced herself.
“She has a nice smile on her face so I bet she treats you well,” Trump said.
Perry, along with other men and women in the room, casually laughed at the encounter. But later, Perry described it as a “bizarre moment.”
Speaking on RTÉ after the exchange, Perry said she had not even expected to be allowed inside the White House to cover the president’s phone call to Varadkar, who took office earlier this month as Ireland’s Taoiseach, or prime minister. He is the son of an Indian immigrant and the country’s first openly gay prime minister.
“One minute we were outside the window and the next minute I’m meeting the President of the United States,” Perry told RTÉ.
“When we went in he was already on the phone but I managed to catch his eye and he called me over,” she said.
RTÉ’s headline read: “Trump call! RTÉ’s Caitríona has Presidential moment.”
During the phone call, Trump also said to Perry, “He thanks you for the newspapers, Caitríona.”
Varadkar was apparently referring to issues of The Washington Post and New York Times from the day after his victory in his party’s leadership vote, Perry told the Irish Independent. Fine Gael is the political party that leads Ireland’s government.
“I had sent those back to Dublin via colleagues for Leo Varadkar as souvenirs that he and his family might like,” Perry said. “I do that often when there is a reference to someone I know from home who is featured in the newspapers here,” she said.
Trump’s unexpected decision to single out a female reporter drew mixed reactions on social media, with some describing it as “awkward” and others saying it was simply an attempt by Trump to share some “kind words.”
This is not the first time Trump has singled out a female reporter.
During the election, Trump faced backlash for saying Megyn Kelly, then a Fox News Channel anchor, “had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” when she questioned him during a presidential debate.
“In my opinion, she was off base,” Trump added. (His campaign later claimed in a statement that Trump said “whatever” instead of “wherever,” and that the reference was to her nose.)
And few reporters on the campaign trail were criticized by the future president as much as NBC News’s Katy Tur, as The Post’s Paul Farhi reported:
His public lashings on Twitter and at rallies seemed to become obsessive, as if he were acting out a frustrated crush. He derided her as “Little Katy,” recommended that she be fired, called her “incompetent,” “dishonest,” a “3rd rate reporter.” His most frequent complaint: that she wasn’t reporting the size of his campaign crowds (“Katy — you’re not reporting it, Katy,” he bellowed at one point. “There’s something happening, Katy.”)
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