President Donald Trump lavished praise on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the United Nations Thursday. A day earlier, the White House denied Erdogan’s claim that Trump had apologized for the May incident in Washington when several of the Turkish leader’s guards beat peaceful protesters.
“It’s a great honor and privilege, because he’s become a friend of mine, to introduce President Erdogan of Turkey,” Trump said during a photo-op with Erdogan. “He’s running a very difficult part of the world. He’s involved very, very strongly, and frankly he’s getting very high marks. And he’s also been working with the United States. We have a great friendship.”
Trump added: “As countries, I think we’re right now as close as we have ever been. And a lot of that has to do with the personal relationship. So, president, thank you very much, it’s a great honor to have you to the United States.”
A reporter shouted a question about “violence against peaceful protesters,” seemingly a reference to several of Erdogan’s guards and others who viciously beat peaceful protesters during Erdogan’s U.S. visit earlier in the year. Fifteen Turkish security officials and four others were subsequently indicted in connection to the beatings outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in DC. None of the Turkish guards have been arrested.
A demonstration outside the Turkish Embassy in northwest Washington led to nine people being injured, and two arrested pic.twitter.com/6SQTlQAUaa
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) May 17, 2017
Trump dodged the question.
“We’ll be discussing many issues,” he said. “Many issues.” The reporters were shuffled out of the room.
Erdogan claimed in an interview with PBS’ Judy Woodruff Tuesday that Trump had apologized to him about the incident and “told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit.”
National Security Council spokesperson Michael Anton told Yahoo News that the topic “was discussed” in Trump and Erdogan’s call, but that “there was no apology.”
Erdogan has come under international scrutiny for his harsh crackdown on dissent in Turkey following a failed coup attempt in July 2016. On Wednesday, Edorgan commented on the scores of journalists currently jailed in his country: “Most of them are terrorists,” he said. “Everyone else seems to think they’re journalists just because they say so.”