Donald Trump accused The Sun of leaving out his positive comments on Prime Minister Theresa May in an exclusive interview that ran on the newspaper’s front page today, labelling it “fake news”.
But the US President appeared to later backtrack on the claim after singling out Sun political editor Tom Newton-Dunn at a packed press conference at Chequers this afternoon to ask him if the comments were included.
While the paper led with the headline: “May has wrecked Brexit… US deal is off!” it had also quoted Trump as saying of May: “I think she is a very nice person. I get along with her very nicely.”
He also denied calling her a “bossy schoolteacher” in an earlier interview with the Washington Post, calling it “fake news”.
Trump spoke out after he was questioned by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg over his criticism of May during a sit-down with the Sun shortly before his arrival in the UK on an official visit yesterday.
Kuenssberg asked: “Mr President, you seem rather to have changed your tune from earlier this week when you said the current Brexit plan would probably kill the possibility of a trade deal with the UK.
“Our countries are meant to have a special relationship but you publicly criticised her policy, and her personally, for not listening to you this week. Is that the behaviour of a friend?”
Trump responded: “I didn’t criticise the Prime Minister I’ve got a lot of respect for the Prime Minister.
“Unfortunately there was a story that was done, which was generally fine, but it didn’t put in what I said about the Prime Minister and I said tremendous things.
“Fortunately we tend to record stories now so we have it for your enjoyment if you’d like it but we record when we deal with reporters.
“It’s called ‘fake news’ and we solve a lot of problems with the good old reporting instrument.”
He added: ” I think she’s doing a terrific job by the way.”
In the Sun interview, Trump was reported as having criticised May’s handling of Brexit, saying: “I would have done it much differently” and telling the paper that she did not take his advice on negotiations.
In a surprising turn, Trump was told by May that Newton-Dunn was among journalists attending today’s press conference, where the two leaders took four questions each.
“Oh good, where is that person?” said Trump. Then, addressing Newton-Dunn directly from his lectern, he said: “Did I say nice things about Theresa May?”
After apparently being told his positive comments had been included in the report, Trump said: “If you reported them that’s good – Where? On the internet?”
He added: “I said very good things about her [May]… I didn’t think they put it in – they didn’t put it in the headline, I wish they had put that in the headline, that’s one of those things.”
Trump also told the media he apologised to May over the Sun article when he saw her this morning, telling her: “I said such good things about you”.
He said she replied: “Don’t worry, it’s only the press.”
A spokesperson for the Sun said: “We stand by our reporting and the quotes we used – including those where the President was positive about the Prime Minister, in both the paper and in our audio – and we’re delighted that the President essentially retracted his original charge against the paper later in the press conference.
“To say the President called us ‘fake news’ with any serious intent is, well… fake news.”
Press Gazette has contacted Number 10 asking them to confirm May’s comments to Trump about the press.
Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay