Demonstrating once again that official business will not deter him from his mission to make America creepy again, Donald Trump interrupted a phone call to Ireland’s new leader on Tuesday to ask a “beautiful” Irish reporter where she was from, summon her over to his desk, and praise her “nice smile.”
The reporter, Caitriona Perry, shared video of what she called “the bizarre moment” Trump singled her out during his phone conversation with Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s new taoiseach, or prime minister.
Perry’s employer, the Irish state broadcaster RTE, passed the moment off as light-hearted fun, captioning her own video of the encounter on Facebook as evidence that she got “the Presidential Seal of Approval from Donald Trump.”
Perry’s video shows that Gary Cohn, the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser, laughed as the president told Varadkar that Perry “has a nice smile on her face, so I bet she treats you well.”
Many viewers of the clip, however, found it deeply uncomfortable to watch, with some describing it as a textbook example of workplace harassment.
its almost like we elected a self professed sexual predator ?— Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) June 27, 2017
Sexual harassment training video.— Ken Fitzgerald (@loudlong) June 27, 2017
We apologize that our president is a weird, inappropriate creep.— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) June 27, 2017
We apologize for this demented buffoon caveman, the admitted sexual predator, and are working on the problem. Please forgive us.— Julie Silver (@JulieAnnSilver) June 27, 2017
It's hell to be objectified. When POTUS has no fear of doing that surrounded by cameras... I'm so sorry. Your success is more than a smile.— Cristin Harber (@CristinHarber) June 28, 2017
Indeed, Trump’s behavior does seem to meet the definition of sexual harassment posted online by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which says that “unwelcome sexual advances,” or “verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature… is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment.” Such behavior is an offense, the commission makes clear, even when carried out by “someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”
Trump’s proposed budget for 2018, includes cutting 249 full-time positions from the commission’s staff.
It is impossible to know what motivated Trump to pause his congratulatory call to Varadkar for such a display, but reporters in the room noted that the start of the call was delayed, as the real estate heir in the Oval Office was forced to wait on hold for more than 90 seconds before Ireland’s leader took the call.
Trump then began the call by turning to his favorite subject: electoral victories. “Congratulations on your great victory,” Trump told Varadkar. “That was a great victory that you had.”
Trump, whose own great victory in America’s electoral college came despite getting 2.9 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, was perhaps unaware of the irony that Varadkar became Ireland’s premier last month without any popular mandate. He was appointed leader of the governing Fine Gael party thanks to the quirks of its own electoral college system — which declared him the winner because overwhelming support from his fellow members of parliament, acting as super-delegates, cancelled out an embarrassing loss, by 30 percentage points, in a ballot of party members.
Varadkar, a 38-year-old doctor who is openly gay, and Ireland’s first leader to be the son of an immigrant, said on Wednesday that he did not intend to slight the president by keeping him waiting.
Although Varadkar is known for his conservative politics, he made no secret of his doubts about Trump’s fitness for office last summer, when he was asked on Irish radio to comment on the Republican’s race against Clinton. “Hillary actually isn’t a great debater, but she’s not crazy, so I imagine she would win those debates against Trump quite solidly,” Varadkar told RTE after the Republican convention last July.
“One thing that did occur to me, watching the convention was, this whole slogan, which is the Trump slogan, around making American great again” Varadkar added. “What is he harking back to? Is it the America in which women were supposed to stay in the kitchen, gay people were supposed to stay in the closet and black people were supposed to be in the back of the bus? Like exactly what great America is he talking about? Is it America of the ’50s or ’60s, which wasn’t really that great?”