Or does he? It depends on one’s definition of apology. In an excerpt of an interview with Piers Morgan for ITV, aired earlier today on Good Morning Britain, the former CNN host challenges Donald Trump for his retweet of debunked videos that purportedly depicted radical Islamist terror, which originated with an extremist group called Britain First. The retweets caused a minor diplomatic row with Prime Minister Theresa May, who denounced Trump’s actions at the time. When Morgan asks Trump about it now, he offers a show of remorse — but was it an apology?
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) January 26, 2018
Morgan accepts this as an apology, thanking Trump for setting the record straight. ITV also reports it the same way. American media outlets, however, note that Trump never actually offered an explicit apology. NBC reported that “Trump almost apologizes” for the retweets:
President Donald Trump almost apologized for retweeting inflammatory anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant videos originally shared by a British far-right political group.
In an interview with Piers Morgan — who is friends with the president — Trump said he did not want to cause “any difficulty” for the U.K. but stopped short of directly saying sorry.
“If you’re telling me these are horrible people, horrible racist people, I would certainly apologize if you’d like me to do that,” Trump said in an excerpt released by “Good Morning Britain” on Friday.
The Washington Post used a more helpful construction, saying that Trump was “ready to apologize”:
President Trump said in a British television interview Friday that he was ready to apologize for retweeting anti-Muslim videos from a far-right British group, and he reiterated his assertions that he is not a racist.
In an interview with the “Good Morning Britain” program, Trump was pushed by Piers Morgan, the presenter, about his November retweet of three videos by the group called Britain First that caused outrage in Britain and brought a rare rebuke from Prime Minister Theresa May.
It’s remarkable that Trump went as far as he did toward an apology at all, given his usual refusal to ever back down in the face of criticism. It probably helped that he and Morgan have a longstanding friendship, but it might also be that Trump realizes he has some fence-mending to do with the UK. His decision to snub the “special relationship” at the opening of the new embassy in London resulted at least in part from the expected protests over those earlier tweets, and that plus the tweets themselves put a lot of pressure on May to distance herself from Trump.
The two countries have recently arranged a state visit for Trump for later this year, a project that got shelved last year thanks to considerable opposition in Parliament. For the past week, Trump has attempted to dial down the controversy, offering May nothing but praise for her work and their relationship, while casting questions about the latter as a media artifact:
The two had a face-to-face meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.”The prime minister and myself have had a really great relationship, although some people don’t necessarily believe that,” Trump said. “There’s a little bit of a false rumor out there, so I just wanted to correct it, frankly.”
The president was likely referring to a Bloomberg story published earlier this week, describing a “dysfunctional relationship” between the two world leaders. According to Bloomberg, May finds it almost impossible to hold phone calls with Trump because he talks over her, while the president feels May should be able to do more to quell expected protests that are standing in the way of Trump’s desire to pay a state visit to the U.K.
Tensions between the two were not on display in Davos, however.”I have great respect for everything you’re doing,” Trump told May. “We love your country. We think it’s truly great.”
Other reports had Trump demanding a ban on protests as the cost of a state visit to the UK, but that cuts across the tenor of Trump’s repair work this week. An apology for the tweets that infuriated the Brits is the pinnacle of that effort. Or will be. YMMV.