German chancellor Angela Merkel may be the most powerful woman on earth, but she still sometimes has trouble getting heard by a man. When she modestly asked US president Donald Trump if he wanted to shake hands during a photo-op at the White House today, his response was to stare into space in stone-cold silence.
In the press conference afterward, at one moment it was as if they were holding separate press conferences in parallel universes that had somehow became superimposed. Merkel talked about the peace and economic progress brought about by the European Union and helping countries absorb refugees—a fraught issue ever since Trump called Germany’s refugee policy a “catastrophic mistake.”
After that she turned to Trump and smiled, but he gripped the edges of the podium, ignored her, stared straight ahead, and started talking about all the jobs he would create in the American Midwest. Still not looking at Merkel, Trump then called on a reporter in the crowd.
To be fair, it’s possible Trump simply couldn’t hear Merkel during the earlier photo op above the rapid fire of photographers’ shutters and voices of aides. On the video, a male voice can be heard saying “handshake,” right after Merkel leaned towards Trump, and he apparently didn’t hear that, either.
Still, Merkel’s face spoke volumes about the awkwardness of the moment.