Trump complained that son Barron wouldn’t say he loved him and compared him to unimpressed reporter

Week before pandemic shutdown country, president appeared focused on whether to attend White House Correspondents Dinner

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 23 November 2021 17:41
John Karl recalls ‘bizarre’ time Trump kept comparing him to son Barron
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Veteran ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl says that Donald Trump once compared him to his son Barron, whom he said would not say out loud that he loved his father.

Mr Karl told the bizarre anecdote in an appearance on CNN’s New Day to promote his book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show.

Anchor John Berman asked Mr Karl if there were any strange or overlooked stories from the latest much talked about and reviewed book revealing what occurred behind closed doors during the Trump administration.

Mr Berman referred him to a meeting he wrote about with the then-president in the Oval Office in his capacity as head of the White House Correspondents Association.

“And you went in with Zeke Miller, another reporter, right, to talk to then-President Trump because he was sort of musing about the possibility of going to the White House Correspondents Dinner,” Mr Berman said. “And you write about this conversation.”

Mr Berman read an extract from the book: “The former president says ‘Jonathan is very cool.’ He told Zeke Miller, ‘He’s like my son.’ Trump then proceeded to reenact a conversation with his son. ‘Do you love your dad? I don’t know. But he does. But he’s too cool, the kids.’”

He continued: “Donald Trump, it seemed, was comparing me to his teenage son, Barron, and he was comparing my lack of excitement about his possible appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner, with his son’s reluctance to say out loud that he loved him.”

Mr Karl responded: “I mean, this was, there have been many surreal moments. I can’t say if it was the most, but it was certainly in the top, top five.”

The conversation occurred at the beginning of March 2020, when Mr Karl and Mr Miller were summoned to the Oval Office in the week before the US and much of the world shut down because of the rising tide of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pair were called in to discuss the dinner, which Mr Trump had skipped in previous years as president and famously been roasted at by former President Barack Obama in 2011.

Having been left alone waiting for the president while he was fetched by staff only added to the strangeness of the situation, he said.

Eventually, Mr Trump appeared and met with them for an hour to discuss whether or not he would attend the annual event.

Mr Karl recalled: “I hadn’t even invited the guy. I wasn’t sure I wanted to invite him. He had called the press the enemy of the people.

“I wasn’t going to beg him. I wasn’t even going to actually ask him. I just said ‘We respect your decision. If you want to come, you’re welcome to come. If you don’t want to come, that’s fine,’” said Mr Karl.

“And that’s that whole bizarre exchange where he’s talking about his son not wanting to say he loves him.”

“It is. It is odd, to say the least, said Mr Berman, also noting: “And by the way, has an hour to spend with you and the pandemic is breaking out all over the world.”

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