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A video clip of a White House press conference in the Rose Garden sparked controversy on Monday.
The press conference, which was about the new trade deal between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, features a moment in which President Donald Trump called on a female reporter for a question.
There was a brief pause while the reporter, ABC’s Cecilia Vega, stood up to ask her question. The president said, “She’s shocked I called on her, she’s in a state of shock” and laughs, along with his colleagues behind him. “No, I’m not, thank you, Mr. President,” Vega replied.
What happened next is a subject of dispute.
Trump comes back at Vega, saying, “I know you’re not thanking, you never do.”
“I’m sorry?” Vega replied before asking her question.
Several news outlets (and Twitter users) are up in arms about the incident, saying that Trump was saying “I know you’re not thinking, you never do,” and insulting Vega’s intelligence. But a close listen seems to reveal that Trump was just insulting Vega’s manners, and not her intellect.
Trump to female reporter: "I know you're not thinking, you never do."
Trump: "She's shocked I picked her, she's in a state of shock."
Vega: I'm not, thank you Mr. President.
Trump: "I know you're not thinking, you never do."
Vega: "I'm sorry?"
Trump: "Go ahead" pic.twitter.com/hhfFHDNSXk
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) October 1, 2018
Trump calls on Cecilia Vega of ABC News. He says that she's shocked that he picked her. Then he adds, "That's OK. I know you're not thinking. You never do." (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/FnrIDeyqyN
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 1, 2018
Trump to woman reporter: "She's shocked I picked her, she's in a state of shock”
Reporter: “I'm not, thank you Mr. President”
Trump: "I know you're not thinking, you never do”
Reporter: "I'm sorry?"
Trump: "Go ahead"
This is institutionalized misogyny.
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) October 1, 2018
— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) October 1, 2018
But while Trump does regularly insult women, this time is apparently different. Vega hasn’t commented on the interaction specifically, but did tweet, “A news conference means you get to ask whatever question you want to ask. #FirstAmendment.”
Later in the conference, Trump did belittle CNN’s Kaitlan Collins when she asked a question about Brett Kavanaugh, demanding her question be only about trade and wagging his finger at her.
“Don’t do that, that’s not nice,” Trump said when Collins tried to repeat her question.
Trump has a long history of insulting the media, so these kinds of jabs aren’t out of character for him. He regularly disdains CNN, the New York Times, and other news outlets. He also routinely questions the credibility and intelligence of women, calling Rep. Maxine Waters “low IQ,” and to Mika Brzezinski “dumb as a rock.”
Update 9:09am CT, Oct. 2: White House transcripts were updated on Tuesday to correct the President’s remarks to reporter Cecllia Vega. The original transcript read, “I know you’re not thanking, you never do.” The updated transcript reads, “I know you’re not thinking, you never do.”
White House has CORRECTED transcript of Trump's exchange @CeciliaVega
Initially quoted Trump saying, "I know you're not *thanking.* You never do."
Now says: "I know you're not thinking." pic.twitter.com/JJZWGpr3HU
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) October 2, 2018
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.