President Trump used a familiar bonding activity to commiserate with the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah, during Thursday's joint news conference at the White House.
“These disputes, as I said, they are complicated, and we have seen the media campaign that is totally unacceptable to the people because the media coming out of this country is against the people, not the rulers,” Sabah added.
It was unclear whether Sabah was complaining about the press in Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, or in his own country — or both. Whatever the case, Trump saw an opportunity to form a connection.
“I'm very, very honored and happy to know that you have problems with the media also,” the president said.
We've seen this before. Trump had barely stepped off Air Force One in Tel Aviv in May when he and the Netanyahus, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin and wife Sara, broke the ice by complaining about negative media coverage in their respective countries.
“The majority of the people in Israel, unlike the media, they love us,” Sara Netanyahu told Trump. “So we tell them how you are great, and they love you.”
“We have something very much in common,” Trump said.
“Very much in common,” Sara Netanyahu replied.
“Sounds familiar,” Benjamin Netanyahu added.
“We will talk about it at dinner,” Sara Netanyahu continued. “A lot in common. The same media. Anyhow, we'll talk about it.”
Two months later, at a joint news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, Trump vented about CNN.
“They have been fake news for a long time,” he said. “They've been covering me in a very, very dishonest way.”
“Do you have that also, by the way, Mr. President?” Trump added, turning to Duda.
Duda said nothing but flashed a knowing smile.
These exchanges underscore how integral Trump's disdain for the media is to his political identity. He has dubbed the media the “opposition party,” often using them as a foil to present himself as a president constantly under siege.
And he also tries to find common ground with other world leaders through the shared experience of critical coverage.