WASHINGTON — While discussing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday morning, President Donald Trump said he wanted Americans to react to him in the same way.
“Hey, he’s the head of a country, and I mean, he’s the strong head, don’t let anyone think anyone different,” Trump told Fox News’ Steve Doocy. “He speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same.”
The comment created a stir, but when asked about it later, Trump said he hadn’t meant the comment to be taken seriously.
“What did you mean just now when you said you wished Americans would sit up at attention?” a reporter asked after the interview.
Trump retorted, “I’m kidding. You don’t understand sarcasm. Hey, who are you with? …You’re with CNN? Hey, you are the worst.”
Earlier this week, Trump met with Kim in Singapore. He declared the summit a success that would lead to denuclearization and he praised the North Korean leader, calling him “very talented.”
The president’s remarks followed several instances this week in which he has brushed aside questions about North Korea’s human rights record, which the United Nations has described as among the worst on the planet.
Trump answered a question Wednesday on Fox about abuses carried out under Kim by saying that “a lot of other people done some really bad things.”
Trump, speaking Friday with reporters gathered on the North Lawn after his surprise appearance on Fox, offered new insight into his relationship with the recluse leader. Asked why he appeared to be downplaying the human rights issue, Trump said he is focused on making progress elsewhere.
“Because I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question about the language Trump has used to describe Kim. “I want to have a good relationship with North Korea.”
And by Trump’s account, he has accomplished that goal. The president said he gave Kim “a very direct number” and that the two leaders have the ability to communicate directly.
By: Jessica Estepa and John Fritze, USA Today