It might not be as bad as the time Kevin Rudd leaked George W Bush’s “what’s the G20?” remark, sparking a temporary chill in US-Aussie relations, but it’s still pretty embarrassing. In an audio recording leaked to an Australian TV station, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull can be heard mocking President Donald Trump’s speaking style, and joking about his connections with Russians.
The remarks were part of the prime minister’s routine at the Midwinter Ball in Canberra, loosely described as Australia’s version of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The event, which was attended by more than 100 people, was supposed to be “off the record,” so the president felt comfortable cracking a few jokes that he believed would never find their way to the president’s ear.
Relations between the two longtime allies who, as WSJ notes, have fought side by side in every armed conflict since World War II, have gotten off to a rocky start since Trump moved into the White House. A February phone call between the two leaders ended after just 25 minutes when Trump abruptly hung up on Turnbull, before saying he’d spoken with four other world leaders that day and that this was “the worst call by far.”
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) June 15, 2017
Turnbull started with jokes about his first meeting with Trump, which took place aboard the mothballed aircraft carrier Intrepid in Manhattan last month.
“It was beautiful. It was the most beautiful putting-me-at-ease ever,” Turnbull joked.
Turnbull then moved on to joking about the President’s obsession with the polls. Those remarks come at a particularly embarrassing time for the Trump administration given that, according to a Gallup poll released earlier this week, 60% of Americans disapprove of the job he is doing.
“The Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much. We are winning like we’ve never won before. “
“Not the fake polls. Not the fake polls. They’re the ones we’re not winning. We’re winning in the real polls. You know, the online polls. They are so easy to win. I know that did you know that. I kind of now that. They are so easy to win. I have this Russian guy, believe me, it’s true, it’s true.”
Turnbull refused to apologize for the remarks and even denied that he made jokes at Trump’s expense, arguing that his routine “was good natured and the brunt of my jokes was myself.”
He added that he was “disappointed” the audio had leaked, calling it a breach of protocol, before characterizing his jabs as “light hearted” and “affectionate,” according to Bloomberg.
“It’s a breach of protocol, it’s a breach of faith and all those things, but it’s lighthearted, affectionate, good-natured. The butt of my jokes was myself. It’s fun, you’ve got to have a laugh. We’ve got to lighten up,” he said.
Some of the early hostility between the two leaders appeared to ease after last month’s meeting, when Trump told reporters that the two countries were “old friends and really natural partners.” Trump had earlier tweeted his dissatisfaction with an agreement the Obama administration had made to resettle more than 1,000 Iranian and Afghan refugees.
The U.S. Embassy in Canberra said in a statement that it accepted Mr. Turnbull hadn’t intended to offend Mr. Trump. “We understand that last night’s event is equivalent to our own White House Correspondents’ Dinner. We take this with the good humor that was intended,” the statement said. Now, we wait to see if Trump takes to twitter to craft a “good natured” response of his own.