New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she regrets sharing an anecdote that suggested President Trump mistook her for the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“It was a bit of a funny yarn,” Arden told TVNZ on Monday morning, adding that it was “something that I don't want to cause a diplomatic incident over.”
Speculation about Ardern's interaction with Trump at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was sparked this weekend when comedian Tom Sainsbury told a radio station about the alleged case of mistaken identity.
Sainsbury, famous for his impersonations of politicians on Snapchat, had appeared onstage with Ardern at the New Zealand Music Awards on Thursday. Speaking to Auckland-based RadioLive about that event, Sainsbury said he had talked with New Zealand's leader about her interactions with Trump before they took to the stage.
“I'm not sure if I should be saying this, but she said that Donald Trump was confused for a good amount of time, thinking that she was Justin Trudeau's wife,” said Sainsbury, who also added that Ardern told him that Trump was “not as orange in real life.”
The alleged case of mistaken identity sparked headlines in New Zealand, where 37-year-old Ardern took office last month. Ardern is the youngest female head of government in the world and has run into sexism from political critics. Trudeau is married to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, a former television host who does not physically resemble New Zealand's leader.
Ardern's office soon pushed back on Sainsbury's account, stating that the U.S. president did not appear confused when he met with her. “Someone thought the President had confused us, but in all of the conversations we had it was clear to me he hadn't, and recalled the conversation we had late last month,” Ardern said in a statement released to Newshub, referring to a phone call placed by Trump in October to congratulate her on forming a government.
During an eight-minute interview with TVNZ on Monday, however, Ardern struggled to explain how Sainsbury came to think that Trump had confused her with the Canadian first lady. “Tom's a mate of mine,” the prime minister said. “I shared a story with him, and he shared it with someone else. I can see how that then spirals.”
“President Trump didn't seem to confuse me when I interacted with him,” Ardern said. The prime minister wouldn't divulge who had suggested that Trump had mistaken her, saying only that it was not a New Zealander. She did not answer when asked whether it was another world leader.
Ardern entered office just weeks before her arrival at the APEC summit. She leads the center-left Labour Party, but she was forced to enter into a coalition with the right-wing populist NZ First to form a government, prompting some controversy. The prime minister herself has been accused of an anti-immigrant agenda, with some international outlets comparing her to Trump on this issue.
During an interview with New Zealand's Newsroom last week, Ardern suggested that Trump, apparently well aware of her, had made a comment about her domestic situation at the East Asia Summit gala dinner. “This lady caused a lot of upset in her country,” Trump said in jest, according to Ardern's account.
“You know, no one marched when I was elected.” Ardern recalled saying in response, prompting Trump to laugh.
“It was only afterwards that I reflect that it could have been taken in a very particular way,” the New Zealand leader added. “He did not seem offended.”
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