In this normless Trumpian world, folk heroes emerge from the unlikeliest places.
The latest: Japanese first lady Akie Abe. At the controversial G20 dinner in Hamburg, Germany — the one in which Trump had a second, undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin after dessert — Abe was seated next to Trump. Their dinner banter was somewhat limited, because Abe does not speak English.
Or does she?
In his controversial new interview with the New York Times, in which the president intimated he might fire special counsel Robert Muller — because with Trump, even quotidian events such as a dinner or an interview must now double as potential calamity — Trump revealed that he and first lady Abe had some difficulty communicating.
“There was one interpreter for Japanese, ’cause otherwise it would have been even tougher,” Trump told the paper. “But I enjoyed the evening with her, and she’s really a lovely woman, and I enjoyed — the whole thing was good.”
He might have a different opinion once he hears that Abe does, in fact, speak fluent English,
Newsweek reports that on Thursday, a newly viral YouTube video shows Abe giving a keynote address at a 2014 Asia-Pacific symposium in New York. She read a 15-minute speech in clear, adept English.
YouTube commenters did not hold back.
“Lovely speech by Madame Akie,” wrote user Doug Soon. “Apparently she did not have this facility with the English language when she dined beside Donald Trump. He says she did not speak one word to him.”
“It’s amazing to see what a first lady from a highly educated, technology driven society has to say,” wrote user mtneves77. “English isn’t her first language and yet she speaks at a higher grade level than our derpy president.”
“Well Madame Akie probably had a very difficult time understanding anything that Trump had to say as she studied English not gibberish,” wrote pyrrhogaster.
Twitter users went wild, calling Abe a “hero.” Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti declared that the evidence was clear: Abe “pretended not to speak English to avoid talking to Trump.”
Akie Abe 2020 (don’t question it)
— High Quality Person (@SydneyMkay) July 20, 2017
If I had to sit with trump, I’d pretend not to speak English either: “I’m sorry Mr. President, I only speak jive.” https://t.co/td5NpGszCp
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) July 20, 2017
Both Twitter users and journalists declared that Trump was wrong. New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Motoko Rich said his assertion was “a false note.” Others dug into Abe’s past to fact check:
Akie Abe worked for the world’s largest ad agency and went to Tokyo’s Sacred Heart school. There’s no way she doesn’t speak English https://t.co/DvbeOgAhCs
— Deborah Cole (@doberah) July 20, 2017
On the matter, Trump himself has gone speechless.