Donald Trump and Theresa May have a history of mutual praise and careful criticism

The pair made laudatory comments this morning.

July 13, 2018, 12:47 PM

President Donald Trump was effusive with his praise of British Prime Minister Theresa May at their joint news conference this morning, even after publication of an interview with the president that some saw as critical of May.

While the two leaders have praised the longtime “special relationship” between their two countries, they have offered relatively generic and at times tepid support for one another personally.

Here’s a rundown of what they have said about each other in the past.

Nov. 7, 2016: Perhaps a veiled swipe

The day before the U.S. election, May, who had during the campaign taken her government’s approach of not commenting on other country’s elections, made a general remark about “the way I like to see campaigns being conducted.”

“I like them to be conducted in a calm and measured way with proper consideration of the issues,” she said, according to British newspaper The Independent.

Nov. 9, 2016: Congratulations are in order

May released a statement congratulating Trump on his victory in the “hard-fought campaign.”

She praised the two countries' “enduring and special relationship,” saying, “We are, and will remain, strong and close partners on trade, security and defense.”

“I look forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump, building on these ties to ensure the security and prosperity of our nations in the years ahead,” she said in the statement, according to the BBC.

Jan. 8, 2017: May’s reaction to the Access Hollywood tape

Even though the recording of a 2005 conversation in which Trump said he would “grab” women’s genitals was publicly released in October 2016, May didn’t publicly comment on it until the following January, shortly before she made her first official visit to the White House.

When asked of her views on the Access Hollywood tape, May said, “I think that’s unacceptable, but in fact Donald Trump himself has said that and apologized for it.”

“But the relationship that the U.K. has with the United States is about something much bigger than the relationship between the two individuals as president and prime minister - that's important, but actually we have a longstanding special relationship with the United States. It's based on shared values,” she said in an interview with Sky News.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May walk together along the Colonnade at the White House, Jan. 27, 2017.
President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May walk together along the Colonnade at the White House, Jan. 27, 2017.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

Jan. 27, 2017: Their first joint news conference

May was the first foreign leader to visit the White House in the Trump administration, and in their introductory comments they both stressed the much-touted special relationship.

A British reporter put a pointed question to Trump, asking what he would say to people who were fearful of his election, to which Trump quipped, “That was your choice of a question? There goes that relationship.”

May jumped to his defense, saying: “I've been listening to the president and the president has been listening to me ... and there will be times when we disagree and issues on which we disagree. The point of the special relationship is that we are able to have that open and frank discussion, so that we are able to -- to make that clear when it happens.”

When asked later about their personal relationship, Trump seemed optimistic.

“I think we're going to get along very well. You know, it's interesting because I am a people person. I think you are also, Theresa. And I can often tell how I get along with somebody very early, and I believe we're going to have a fantastic relationship,” he said.

May echoed that, saying, “I think we have already struck up a good relationship.”

June 6, 2017: May calls Trump “wrong”

May rebuked Trump to a British tabloid, saying he was "wrong" to criticize Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, in the wake of a terror attack in the city that killed seven people.

May first told The Sun that the "relationship with America is our deepest and most important defense and security relationship."

“Having said that," she added, "I think Donald Trump is wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan, in relation to the attack on London Bridge."

She was responding to Trump's taking a dig at Khan's reassurances to the public that there is no reason to be alarmed. Trump's tweeted criticism didn't note that Khan was referring to an increased police presence in the city in the wake of the attack.

Sept. 15, 2017: May scolds Trump again

PHOTO: Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to ABC News' chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in London in September 2017.
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to ABC News' chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in London in September 2017.
ABC News

May criticized Trump for speculating about another terror attack in London.

"I don't think it's helpful for anyone to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation," May told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview that day.

In the same interview, May detailed her relationship with Trump.

"I do get on with him ... President Trump has actually ... an affection for the United Kingdom. Like many Americans he has family connections with the United Kingdom, and we work very well together," she said.

Nov. 29, 2017: Calling Trump wrong, again

Trump retweeted a total of three unverified, anti-Muslim videos from Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain's far-right Britain First party. A spokesperson for May released a statement criticizing the group, saying it "seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions."

"It is wrong for the president to have done this," the statement said.

Trump took umbrage with that, tweeting to May, "Don't focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!"

She reportedly declined requests for comment on the tweet, according to The Guardian.

Jan. 7, 2018: He’s mentally fine, she says

In the wake of the release of Michael Wolff’s incendiary book “Fire and Fury,” May dismissed concerns raised in the book about the president’s mental fitness.

Asked if she thought the concerns were serious, she said, “No.”

“When I deal with President Trump what I see is somebody who is committed to ensuring that he is taking decisions in the best interests of the United States," she told the BBC.

June 4, 2018: Talking tariffs

Downing Street released a statement saying that the pair spoke by phone about Trump’s recent decision to increase tariffs, with May calling the move “unjustified and deeply disappointing,” according to a spokesperson.

May’s concerns about Trump’s tariffs were well known, as she had issued a similar comment through a spokesperson warning of their impact in March when tariffs were just a proposal.

In spite of Trump's decision, the June call ended with the two leaders “saying they looked forward to seeing each other in the U.K. next month,” the spokesperson said.

July 13, 2018: Heaping on the praise after a "fake news" interview

Trump made his first official state visit to the U.K. following the NATO summit, and he and May spent two days together largely in the British countryside as protests were going on in the capitol city of London.

PHOTO: British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip stand with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump at the entrance to Blenheim Palace, where they are attending a dinner, near Oxford, Britain, July 12, 2018.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip stand with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump at the entrance to Blenheim Palace, where they are attending a dinner with specially invited guests and business leaders, near Oxford, Britain, July 12, 2018.
Peter Nicholls/Reuters

There was a bit of a bump in their tour, however, over an interview he gave to British tabloid The Sun that was released hours after Trump landed. In it, Trump criticized May's handling of Brexit, the planned exit of the U.K. from the European Union.

At their joint news conference Friday, Trump said, "I didn't criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister," going on to criticize the story, which he said did not include his praise for May, and suggesting that the White House may release a full recording of the interview.

The president added that he apologized to May privately about the negative headlines and that May brushed off the dust-up.

“They didn’t put it in the headline," referring to the positive comments he claimed to have said about May during the interview. "I wish they would have. When I saw her this morning, I said, ‘I wanted to apologize.’ She said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only the press.’”

Beyond the apology, Trump went on to praise May.

"She will do very well. I think she's a very tough negotiator," he said of May, going on to call her a "very, very smart and determined person ... She left a lot of people in her wake. She's a very smart, very tough, very capable person, and I would much rather have her as my friend than as my enemy, I can tell you."

When asked to further describe their relationship, Trump said, "I would say I give our relationship in terms of grade the highest level of special ... Now especially after these two days... I would say the highest level of special."

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