It was a key talking point during President Trump’s 2016 campaign, and even before it: The idea that other countries were laughing at the United States. “The world is laughing at us,” he said in May 2016. “They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity,” he said of Mexico in his campaign launch speech. He used the phrase “laughing at us” more than 50 times between 2011 and his election as president. Trump, the argument went, was going to make it stop.
Instead, Trump has been the object of repeated jest and even mockery by fellow world leaders. And it’s been caught on tape — again.
The most recent example came Tuesday, when the leaders of Canada, France, Holland and the United Kingdom seemed to be recounting Trump’s lengthy — and occasionally wild — interactions with reporters earlier in the day.
“He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the video, which was first released by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” he added later, motioning down from his chin.
Trump, on Wednesday, called Trudeau “two-faced” for the comments but still said he was a “nice guy."
Even more world leaders appeared to join in mocking Trump last year during his speech at the United Nations. Trump made one of his characteristically hyperbolic claims about his achievements as president — “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country” — and drew audible laughter.
Trump, apparently taken aback, responded, “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay.”
(He later tried to argue that the world leaders were laughing with him rather than at him, but his real-time reaction didn’t exactly back that up. In addition, world leaders said anonymously that they were indeed having a laugh at Trump’s expense.)
Trump also drew laughter during the same speech from the German delegation, after he lodged a hyperbolic claim about their country’s reliance on Russian energy.
The year before, in 2017, then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull roasted Trump and his selective taste in polls during what was supposed to be an off-the-record dinner. But video soon leaked.
“We are winning in the polls. We are! We are! Not the fake polls. Not the fake polls,” Turnbull said. “They’re the ones we’re not winning in. We’re winning in the real polls. The online polls. They are so easy to win.”
Turnbull added: “I have this Russian guy. Believe me, it’s true. It is true.”
Turnbull explained later that it was “a good-humored roast” that “was affectionately lighthearted.”
That year, Turnbull’s world-leader neighbor, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern, recounted what could also be seen as some good-natured ribbing of Trump — but also seemed to have an edge. Here’s what she told a local reporter:
“I was waiting to walk out to be introduced at the East Asia Summit gala dinner, where we all paraded and while we were waiting, Trump in jest patted the person next to him on the shoulder, pointed at me and said, ‘This lady caused a lot of upset in her country,’ talking about the election.“I said, ‘Well, you know, only maybe 40 percent,’ then he said it again, and I said, ‘You know,’ laughing, ‘no one marched when I was elected.’“He laughed, and it was only afterwards that I reflect that it could have been taken in a very particular way – he did not seem offended.”
On a smaller scale, there was the time that Nordic leaders reenacted a photo of Trump and Saudi leaders with their hands on a glowing orb. The Nordic leaders instead used a soccer ball.
“Who rules the world? Riyadh vs Bergen,” Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg wrote on social media.
And Trump isn’t the only member of his family who has drawn what appeared to be derision in a candid moment at a gathering of world leaders. Earlier this year, his daughter Ivanka Trump was talking at a Group of 20 summit with then-British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and the then-head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde.
“As soon as you charge them with that economic aspect of it, a lot of people start listening who otherwise wouldn’t listen,” May said at one point.
Ivanka Trump responded, “And the same with the defense side of it, in terms of the whole business that’s been, sort of, male-dominated” — to which Lagarde gives an animated reaction that’s difficult to view as anything other than perplexed.
The French presidential palace later expressed regret that it had released such a clip. But given the reaction, you’d think leaders such as Macron and Trudeau would take care to avoid a repeat.
Unless, that is, they truly are just that exasperated.