Donald Trump once referred to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as his “favorite dictator” as he awaited a meeting with the world leader, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal.
The shouted comment was “met with stunned silence” from American and Egyptian officials, who had gathered inside the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, France for this year’s G7 summit.
“Mr. Trump looked over a gathering of American and Egyptian officials and called out in a loud voice: ‘Where’s my favorite dictator?’ Several people who were in the room at the time said they heard the question,” the newspaper reported.
The newspaper could not determine if Sisi heard Trump’s remark.
“Even if lighthearted, Mr. Trump’s quip drew attention to an uncomfortable facet of the U.S.-Egypt relationship,” The Journal reported. “Mr. Sisi has drawn criticism for his authoritarian rule since taking power following a 2013 coup. Under Mr. Sisi, Egyptian authorities have been accused of detaining thousands of political opponents, of torturing and killing prisoners and of stymying political opposition, according to reports by the United Nations, U.S. State Department and nongovernmental groups.”
The paper noted that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, former National Security Adviser John Bolton and top Trump Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow were in attendance.
“Within minutes of the quip, Mr. Sisi met Mr. Trump and reporters were allowed in. Mr. Trump, among other comments, celebrated his relationship with Mr. Sisi, noting that the two leaders had begun talking with each other soon after Mr. Trump won the presidential election in 2016,” the paper noted.
Read the Wall Street Journal’s full report, here.