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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Biden Miscasts Hot Mic Moment About Trump

Joe Biden falsely claimed that a hot mic at a NATO reception caught “leaders of the free world” privately saying “they didn’t think [President Donald Trump] knew anything, they didn’t trust him, et cetera.” Biden has turned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mild ribbing about Trump holding long, unscheduled press interviews into something far worse.

To be clear, none of the world leaders in the video said they “didn’t think [Trump] knew anything, they didn’t trust him.”

During a CNN town hall in New Hampshire on Feb. 5, the former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate argued that under Trump, the U.S. has “distanced ourselves so badly from our allies.

“And if you think I’m exaggerating, look what happened on the 70th anniversary of NATO,” Biden said. “OK, 70th anniversary, a great historic accomplishment. After the president left, there was an unfortunate circumstance where our allies, the leaders of the free world, were making fun of Trump, pointing out they didn’t think he knew anything, they didn’t trust him, et cetera. It wasn’t just an embarrassment to the United States, as a country. It was devastating in terms of the — it says a lot about whether or not the rest of the world and the intelligence communities are willing to work with us, share everything with us.”

Much has been made of a video that captured some of the private conversation between Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands, and Princess Anne at a Buckingham Palace reception on Dec. 3.

The video shows Johnson asking Macron: “Is that why you were late?”

Trudeau then interjects: “He was late ‘cause he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top every time.”

“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, 40 minutes. He announced …” Trudeau added. The video cuts out before he finishes that sentence. (Earlier that day, Macron had participated in a 38-minute press event with Trump.)

The video then resumes with Trudeau saying, “I just watched, I watched his team’s jaws just drop to the floor.”

The following day, Trudeau confirmed he was talking about Trump in the video and clarified the meaning of his comments.

“Last night I made a reference to the fact that there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with President Trump and I was happy to take part of it but it was certainly notable, and I’ve had a number of good conversations with the president over the course of this day and yesterday,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said his comment, “I watched his team’s jaws just drop to the floor,” was a reference to Trump’s announcement that this year’s G-7 summit would be held at Camp David. (Trump had originally proposed holding the summit at the Trump National Doral Golf Club in Miami, drawing criticism from Democrats and some Republicans.)

At a press conference, Johnson said it was “complete nonsense” to suggest from the video that he didn’t take Trump seriously.

Trump clearly did not like Trudeau’s comments. In a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Dec. 4, Trump was asked if he had seen the video, and Trump called Trudeau “two-faced.”

It’s certainly arguable that Trudeau, at least, was “making fun of Trump,” as Biden said.

But Trudeau’s overheard remarks and his explanation of those comments make clear that he was simply making a joke about Trump holding lengthy press conferences. There is no evidence that those leaders were “pointing out they didn’t think he knew anything, they didn’t trust him.”