President Trump took some heat this weekend after it looked like he wasn’t listening to Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s speech at the G7 summit. Gentiloni was speaking in Italian, and Trump, who doesn’t speak Italian, looked like he didn’t have a translation headset on. This isn’t the first time this has happened. But Trump actually did have an earpiece in. It’s just really small.
BBC correspondent James Landale posted a video yesterday showing the G7 meeting with the caption, “look who has chosen not to hear a translation of his Italian host’s speech.”
The insinuation was that Trump wasn’t listening to Gentiloni. But Trump did have his earpiece in. It’s just tiny.
Trump is notorious for being tremendously disrespectful to foreign leaders. (Well, he’s disrespectful to foreign leaders who don’t have authoritarian tendencies, at least.) But Trump ostensibly listens to what most world leaders have to say. He just uses an earpiece that’s much smaller than most of his counterparts around the world.
Even when you look at the conversation in question from the flip side, it’s not immediately clear that Trump has a translation device:
But if you zoom in, you can see Trump’s earpiece behind his water glass:
There are other examples from the G7 summit as well. If you take a look at a different conference table that was used during the summit you can see that the world leaders had two choices: a full two-ear headset or a smaller earpiece.
Trump, like British Prime Minister Theresa May, seems to always opt for the smaller earpieces. My guess is that Trump doesn’t want to muss his hair, but who knows?
Update, May 29th, 1:52am: Some people still insist that just because there’s evidence that Trump’s earpiece was in front of him in some other pictures, it doesn’t prove he was listening when the Italian Prime Minister was talking. But here’s another angle from Italy’s Sky TG24:
Granted, there have been times in the past when Trump has just nodded along without an earpiece, like when he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House on February 10, 2017.
During their infamous handshake session, Trump nodded his head without any translation from Japanese at all. Needless to say, Trump doesn’t speak Japanese and was just going through the motions.
The White House said that Trump knew what Abe was going to say, so it didn’t matter, but it was still a strange sight to behold. Later, during a Q&A with the press, Trump nodded for a good 15 seconds before putting in his earpiece.
But more often than not, you simply can’t see Trump’s earpiece.
Back in April, Trump met with Chinese president Xi Jingping, and it looked like an identical situation as the one in Italy this past Friday. Trump’s lackeys, like Rex Tillerson and Wilbur Ross, all had their headsets on while it looked like Trump wasn’t listening to the translation from the Chinese leader.
Video of the event was seemingly even more damning. But Trump was listening. Or, at least we think he was. His tiny earpiece was only plainly visible from the other side of the table where there were no photographers.
If you took a very, very close look at the Associated Press photos and zoomed in, some of them showed the wire that was hanging down from his small earpiece.
Other American leaders like President Barack Obama have also been fond of the smaller earpiece. In this photo from 2011 we see Obama laughing in France while listening to a translation using an earpiece not much bigger than Trump’s.
President George W. Bush seems to have preferred smaller earpieces too, as you can see from this 2007 photo:
Though earlier in his presidency it looks like he may not have had much choice. The photos below from 2001 (left) and 2004 (right) show Bush using the larger headsets.
The 1990s attempts at earbuds were a bit more goofy looking, as you can see from this photo of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George Bush in July of 1991. Gorbachev looks like he’s playing doctor or something.
But at least the first Bush didn’t have to endure Reagan’s era of headphones. Below we see Reagan listening to translations on some extremely vintage cans in October of 1981 at the North-South Summit in Cancun, Mexico.
And back in President Jimmy Carter’s era it was far more common to just have a guy whispering over your shoulder from behind the couch, as you can see from this photo in September of 1981 with Carter and Japanese PM Zendo Suzuki.
Trump’s presidency is a disaster and his foreign policy thus far has consisted of insulting America’s allies and praising dictators. But with the global rise of fascism, it’s important that even people who oppose Trump be honest about the way he’s conducting the country’s affairs.
There’s enough to be outraged about when it comes to Donald Trump. There’s no need for decent Americans to rely on conspiracy theories to illustrate his idiocy and all around danger to the world.
President Trump and Vladimir Putin are expected to meet in July. So if there was ever a time to really keep a close eye on Trump’s earpiece, that would probably be it.
What’s Russian for “piss tape”?