There is by now a familiar pattern to President Donald Trump’s news conferences: He loudly proclaims his victories and deal-making prowess; dismisses reporters he believes are unfair to him; and rails against policies he doesn’t like. And so it was on Tuesday—with an addition: The president had trouble understanding anyone with a foreign accent.
Taken in isolation, the exchanges at Tuesday’s presidential news conference could be understandable. The news conference was, at times, boisterous, with reporters shouting questions out of turn, which could of course have made it difficult for the president to focus. Or perhaps he simply has difficulty understanding speakers from other backgrounds—many people encounter and struggle with accents they don’t understand.
But it’s what Trump does next that exhibits a pattern of the president’s tendency to distance himself from people from other backgrounds. He has reportedly mocked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s manner of speaking; is said to have mocked the accents of Asian trade negotiators; and has used an exaggerated Spanish accent to say “Puerto Rico.” (Nor is this tendency restricted to foreigners. During a previous news conference, he told ABC’s Cecilia Vega, “You’re not thinking. You never do.” This was after he had misunderstood her saying, “I’m not. Thank you, Mr President” for “I’m not thinking, Mr. President.”)