President Trump on Tuesday mistakenly claimed that Air Force One under former President Barack Obama “never got to land” in the Philippines, a claim he made while touting “a very strong relationship” with the Southeast Asian nation.
“And as you know, we were having a lot of problems with the Philippines. The relationship with the past administration was horrible, to use a nice word,” Trump told reporters in Manila.
“I would say ‘horrible’ is putting it mildly. You know what happened. Many of you were there, and you never got to land. The plane came close but it didn’t land.”
Trump appeared to be referencing a meeting Obama canceled in September of 2016 with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The two were supposed to gather in Laos, but Obama canceled the meeting after Duterte referred to him as a “son of a bitch.”
“Clearly, he’s a colorful guy,” Obama said at the time of Duterte.
“And what I’ve instructed my team to do is to talk to their Philippine counterparts to find out is this, in fact, a time where we can have some constructive, productive conversations.”
Obama had visited the Philippines on several trips earlier in his presidency, and even signed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement with the country in 2014.
Trump during his remarks to reporters on Tuesday emphasized that the United States’ relationship with the Philippines is “probably better than ever before.”
“So it’s very important that we get along with the Philippines, and we really do. We have a very good relationship. I would actually say probably better than ever before,” he said.
Human rights groups say Duterte has carried out an unlawful crackdown on suspected drug dealers and users, resulting in thousands of deaths by means including execution using death squads.