Despite the release of audio footage from his interview with The Sun, U.S. President Donald Trump nevertheless accused the British tabloid of disseminating “fake news” ahead of his bilateral meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
As The Hill reported, Trump’s critical statements in the interview, particularly regarding May’s approach to the British withdrawal from the European Union, resulted in widespread media attention ahead of a planned press conference held by the two leaders.
During his remarks as he stood beside May later in the day Friday, Trump took a much different tone than that portrayed in the newspaper interview.
“Whatever you’re going to do is OK with us,” Trump said to his British counterpart.
Though he stressed the importance of a fair trade agreement between the U.S. and U.K., Trump said the other details are not as important to him.
“Just make sure we can trade together,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”
He also went on to pay the prime minister several compliments regarding her leadership style.
“She’s a very smart, very tough, very capable person,” Trump said. “I would much rather have her as my friend than my enemy, that I can tell you.”
The president also backed off from his previous concern that May “didn’t listen” to him when he offered input regarding the Brexit strategy.
“I did give her a suggestion,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “I wouldn’t say advice. And I think she found it maybe too brutal.”
In his interview with The Sun, however, he expressed the opinion that May’s approach to Brexit was “a much different deal than the one the people voted on” and suggested its implementation could negatively impact trade with the U.S.
“I would have done it much differently,” he said. “I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me.”
WATCH: President Trump claims he "didn't criticize" PM May when he told a British newspaper that she "didn't listen" to him on Brexit.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 13, 2018
During Friday’s press conference, he chalked up discussion of strained relationships to “fake news,” asserting that he “didn’t criticize the prime minister” in the interview.
Trump claimed the tabloid failed to include positive remarks he made about “tremendous things” May has done for the United Kingdom.
“I have a lot of respect for the prime minister,” he said.
According to CNN, Trump also claimed he apologized to May for the backlash over his interview.
Describing her as a “total professional,” he recalled the conversation he said they had on the topic.
“I said, ‘I want to apologize because I said such good things about you,'” Trump said. “And she said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only the press.'”
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