Donald Trump told reports on Monday that First Lady Melania Trump has “gotten to know” North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and agrees with his assessment that he is a “man with a country that has tremendous potential.
But the White House later offered a clarification — Melania has actually never met Kim Jong Un before.
The claim came in a widely panned press conference that Trump held together with French President Emmanuel Macron before Trump returned home from the G-7 Summit in France. As CNN reported, Trump made a series of other incorrect or false claims during the press conference, but his apparently false boast about his wife’s relationship with the North Korean leader drew particular attention.
In a fact check of the statement, CNN noted that the White House walked back his assessment not long after the press conference, as many were already reporting that there was no evidence First Lady Melania Trump had ever interacted or even met Kim Jong Un.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who prior to her current position worked as Melania Trump’s chief spokeswoman, appeared to walk back Donald Trump’s claim.
“President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim — and while the First Lady hasn’t met him, the President feels like she’s gotten to know him too,” Grisham said.
Thsi headline: "After Trump claims first lady has 'gotten to know' Kim Jong Un, White House clarifies they've never met." https://t.co/GeCc4HN6Zq— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 26, 2019
But the explanation fell flat with many who accused Donald Trump of lying about his wife’s actually non-existent relationship with Kim Jong-Un. Trump has met with Kim Jong Un for summits aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program, though critics say there does not appear to be any significant progress toward that. Melania did not take part in any of the meetings.
This was not the only untruth from Donald Trump to make headlines on Monday. As Vanity Fair noted, Trump also recounted a phone call he claimed that he had Chinese leaders regarding his ongoing trade war.
“China called last night our top trade people and said, ‘Let’s get back to the table.’ So we will be getting back to the table and I think they want to do something,” Trump said.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang later said that there was never any phone call, and he did not know what Donald Trump was referring to in his statements in France. When pressed for more details on the phone call, the president refused to provide more information or proof that the call actually took place, Vanity Fair noted.