The Canadian prime minister was caught on video talking about US president Donald Trump behind his back.
In a video that went viral, Justin Trudeau can be seen talking to French president Emmanuel Macron, UK prime minister Boris Johnson, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and British royal Princess Anne.
The world leaders were at a reception at Buckingham Palace (where the Queen lives) in London, England. They were gathered in England for a NATO summit meeting, which is a meeting of certain world leaders.
Cameras were present in the room, but while the conversation was happening, none of the leaders appeared to realize they were being filmed.
In the video, Trudeau is facing the camera, so his voice is the main one picked up by the camera’s microphone. The other people in the group were also participating in the conversation, but most of their words cannot be made out.
In the audio, Trudeau is asked why he and Trump had arrived late to an event. Trudeau says it was because Trump had extended what was to be a two-minute handshake “photo opportunity” into a (40-minute) press conference.
Trudeau also tells the others, in an animated way, that Trump’s staff members were apparently surprised by an announcement he’d made. (The announcement he is talking about is likely that a future G7 summit would be held at Camp David in the US. That appeared to have been a surprise to some people on Trump’s team.)
Trudeau said that Trump’s helpers were so surprised by that announcement that “his team’s jaws drop(ped) to the floor.”
At a media conference later, Justin Trudeau confirmed that he had been talking about Trump to the other world leaders (Trump’s name was never mentioned during the video). Trudeau said the positive relationship between the US and Canada “goes far beyond the relationship between a prime minister and a president.”
Trudeau also made a comment about the fact that this video incident had probably made his own team’s jaws drop.
The next day, Trump called Justin Trudeau “two-faced.” He also said he finds Trudeau to be “a very nice guy.”
The video and its surprising content were discovered by the CBC’s parliamentary producer, Chris Rands. Rands had been scrolling through some videos from the summit and was curious about the animated body language of Trudeau and the others, he told reporter Carol Off in an interview for CBC’s As It Happens radio show (link below).
THINK AND DISCUSS
1. The day after the video incident, Trudeau “made a beeline” for Donald Trump, to speak with him, according to Global News. What do you think Trudeau may have wanted to say to Trump?
2. Do you think this was gossip? Is gossip different when it is done by world leaders?
3. How do you think this incident made Donald Trump feel? What in the article tells you this?
How do you think the people in the video felt after they got caught?
4. If you watch the video, you’ll see that the world leaders are not stiff and formal, as we may be used to seeing them. This animated “body language” is partly what prompted journalist Chris Rands to pay closer attention to the video. What is “body language”?
5. The phrase “behind his back” is used in the story and the headline. What does that phrase mean here?
6. Trudeau mentions “jaws dropping to the floor.” What does that phrase mean here?
7. Do you think this incident will affect Canada-US relations? Why or why not?
8. Is it okay for journalists to record people who don’t realize they are being recorded? Why or why not? (Note: the use of cameras during this reception would have been approved by the world leaders.)
9. Think about the other world leaders who were involved in the discussion. Do you think they have any responsibility for the gossip?
10. Below are links to this story by news agencies from Canada, the US and the UK. Do you notice any similarities or differences in the way each country covered the incident?
CBC news article explains how the leaders were caught by a “hot mic(rophone)”: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday-edition-1.5383972/how-a-cbc-producer-caught-trudeau-on-a-hot-mic-gossiping-about-trump-1.5383974
Global News video (3:20) about the incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4jTdwyWNtg
BBC News about the incident: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50653597
Other “hot mic” incidents involving world leaders (BBC News): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-50662928