President Trump's Monday meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was an historic meeting of the minds, if not the way critics of Duterte's human-rights abuses would have preferred: Both leaders got to express their contempt for the press.
Trump, who is known for his combative, dismissive tone toward the media writ large and specific, jointed Duterte in Manila for a bilateral meeting. Before it began, reporters — who were late to a question-and-answer-session because they were delayed by security — asked the pair about whether they would discuss Duterte's controversial human-rights record. (Duterte has encouraged vigilante killings to crack down on drugs and has bragged of killing people himself.)
"We will be discussing matters that are of interest to both the Philippines and ... with you around, guys, you are the spies," said Duterte, according to CNN.
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"Hah, hah, hah," Trump said, laughing.
"You are," Duterte repeated.
After his meeting with Duterte, Trump thanked Duterte "very much for the way you treated all of us."
"Thank you," Duterte responded. "This signifies the end of our open session. I would like to request media to leave us alone." He added: "You may leave the room."
Both Trump and Duterte have a history of expressing a low opinion of journalists. In June 2016, after two Philippine journalists were killed on the job, Duterte said, "Just because you're a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you're a son of a bitch. Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong."
In October, Trump told reporters that "it is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write." Earlier on his 12-day trip to Asia, Trump assented to Chinese President Xi Jinping's refusal to take questions from the media. "It was at the Chinese insistence there were no questions today," said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Previous presidents have taken questions with the Chinese leader.)
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. Since 1992, 78 have been killed, the third highest total in the world — behind Iraq (186 killed) and Syria (114).
"Context matters here, and shows that Trump tolerating Duterte's behavior — not to mention laughing at his "joke" — is really bad," wrote Chris Cillizza on CNN.com.