“It didn’t put what I said about the prime minister,” Trump said during a news conference with May, referring to an interview he’d given The Sun, a British tabloid. “It’s called fake news.”
The Sun is owned by the conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Trump-friendly Fox News.
In denying that he criticized May, Trump suggested that a recording of the interview would prove his case. However, The Sun published an audio recording of the interview that included the remarks Trump claimed he did not say.
During Friday’s news conference, Trump asserted that the relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. remains close.
“I give our relationship with the U.K., in terms of a grade, the highest level of special,” he said later, repeatedly emphasizing his personal ties to the U.K. ― his mother was born in Scotland ― and how much time he has spent with May this week.
Although Trump had said earlier that May’s policies might kill U.S.-British trade deals, he suggested on Friday that he would accept whatever deal as long as “we can trade together.”
“I think she’s doing a tremendous job,” Trump said of May, insisting that he’d said “tremendous things” during the Sun interview.
In his opening remarks, he also turned to May and told her that “whatever you’re gonna do, it’s OK with us,” backpedaling on earlier remarks slamming her.
The original Sun article, both online and in print, does include Trump calling May “a very good person.” He is also quoted as saying: “I think she is a nice person. I get along with her very nicely.”
Trump maligned the so-called “fake news” multiple times during the press conference. At one point, he refused to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, before calling on Fox News correspondent John Roberts.
“Let’s go to a real network,” Trump said.
When a Sun reporter at Friday’s news conference pointed out that the paper did publish Trump’s positive remarks about May, Trump said: “Oh, good. If you reported it, that’s good.”
He then complained that “they didn’t put it in the headline. I wish they put it in the headline.”
“We stand by our reporting and the quotes we used — including those where the President was positive about the Prime Minister, in both the paper and in our audio — and we’re delighted that the President essentially retracted his original charge against the paper later in the press conference,” The Sun said in a statement.
“To say the President called us ‘fake news’ with any serious intent is, well... fake news.”
This story has been updated throughout.