ASIAN VOICES
07/11/2018 21:14 GMT | Updated 08/11/2018 00:20 GMT

Donald Trump Mocks Japanese Reporter: 'I Really Don't Understand You'

The president also asked the reporter to "say hello to Shinzo," referencing Japan's prime minister.

President Donald Trump is under fire for his reaction to a Japanese reporter’s question. 

The reporter, who had an accent, began asking Trump a question regarding the economy at a press conference at the White House on Wednesday following the midterm elections.

The president interjected, asking, “Where are you from, please?” 

When the reporter responded with “Japan,” Trump told him to “say hello to Shinzo,” referencing the country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

“I’m sure he’s happy about tariffs on his cars,” Trump said. 

When the reporter attempted to finish his question about trade, the president responded, saying, “I really don’t understand you.” 

Trump eventually answered, claiming Japan has treated the U.S. “very unfairly” when it comes to the auto trade. 

The president’s handling of the question prompted criticism from many who viewed Trump’s reactions to the reporter as racist or condescending. 

What’s more, Trump claimed to have not understood two other reporters of color at the same press conference. A female reporter with an accent had asked the president for his take of the Muslim women who had won seats in Congress, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of the Minnesota. 

“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” Trump responded.

Another reporter added, “I’m from Brooklyn, so you can understand me.”

And when yet another journalist with an accent, from Lebanon, asked Trump a question about Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump responded, “Who? I don’t understand him.” 

Many felt it was no coincidence Trump responded similarly to foreign reporters. 

As HuffPost reporter Marina Fang pointed out, Trump’s treatment of those with accents is painful. People with accents are often treated as though they are less intelligent than those with accentless English. 

One egregious example is Fox News darling Jesse Watters’ 2016 “Chinatown” segment, which made Asian accents and those who didn’t understand English the butt of the joke.

But, as Ronny Chieng of “The Daily Show,” who produced a segment in response to Watters’ bit, told HuffPost in August, “You don’t have to speak English to have sophisticated political opinions.”