Washington Post contributor Dan Balz claims he was dining out in Paris on Friday night and discussing a wide array of issues, including Donald Trump, with another Post reporter James McAuley, when a fellow diner at a nearby table asked if he’d like to speak to the president. The man was later identified as CNBC anchor Joe Kernen.
In a piece for the Post, Balz claims that he was “more than surprised by his words and at first wondered which president he was talking about” before accepting the call.
According to the Post pundit, he asked Trump a couple of questions on the shutdown, but the answers were not newsworthy. Trump, he claims, told Balz, “I hear you’ve been saying nice things about me”, before stunning him with a question: “Are you Hillary or are you Trump?”
Perplexed Balz quickly replied that he was a reporter – having thus caused confusion on the other side of the call – and asked Trump if he knew who he was speaking to. The president appeared to be unaware, the journalist claimed.
Trump “seemed to be as surprised by the fact that he had a Washington Post reporter on the line as I had been to find that a man at a table next to mine was actually talking to the president of the United States”, Balz elaborated.
CNBC’s Kernen reportedly told Trump that random people in a Paris brasserie were talking about him, and the president allegedly said: “Are they still there? Let me speak to them”.
Balz assumed that Trump was not alone in the room, and was using a speaker phone, since there was an “outbreak of laughter” on the other end after he identified himself.
“That was that. Just another night in a foreign capital. Just another bizarre moment and a chance encounter with the president of the United States. I wonder whether there will be another”, Balz wrote of the nearly two-minute-long conversation.
While the president has yet to confirm or deny having the surprise phone call with the WaPo journo, there’s been much discussion on social media, with netizens describing the entire situation as “absurd” and suggesting that POTUS “got punked”:
45* got punked! LMAO— Matt Harriman (@MattHarrimanNM) 21 January 2019
Sounds like you should be rating the brasserie on Trip Advisor with the title: "Great food, interesting conversation." BTW, which brasserie, and how was the food?— Budd Shenkin (@BuddShenkin) 19 January 2019
“Are you Hillary or are you Trump?” – the president's forthright question has become the subject of mockery on social media, too:
“I am Groot”— Dave (funded by Soros) McKinnon (@DaveMcKinnon__) 19 January 2019
Pretty sure he's Dan but hey what do I know?— soupcity (@emmbee1002) 19 January 2019
So he's asking reporters what their political leanings are now?
Such a bizarre story. One- in that he refers to himself in third person and two the tribalism- which camp are you in and three- that he is so needy that he will speak to anybody saying good things about him.— Dist 5 Coalition (@Dist_5) 19 January 2019
President Trump’s relations with media are far from being ideal: he has on a multitude of occasions blasted major media outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, etc., for providing inaccurate coverage of his administration. POTUS has repeatedly bashed newspapers and media outlets promoting fake news as “enemies of the people”.