Trump Gave Only One Interview During His UK State Visit. It Did Not Go Well.

From defending his transgender ban with incorrect stats to denying global warming.

Donald Trump’s first state visit to the United Kingdom may have been marked by large protests and a bitter feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, but the US president appeared to find momentary refuge this week with Piers Morgan, the British television personality who was the only journalist granted an interview during Trump’s London stay.

The wide-ranging conversation, which aired Wednesday morning and stayed largely on the friendly side, featured several key moments. 

Climate change. Trump recounted a lengthy conversation with Prince Charles, in which the president said he’d expressed agreement with the prince’s concern for future generations, as well as the need to combat global warming. “He is really into climate change, and I think that’s great,” Trump told Morgan. But he quickly claimed that Americans enjoy some of the “cleanest climates” in the world and rejected the idea that the US needs to do more to fight the crisis. 

“China, India, Russia, many other nations, they have not very good air, not very good water, in the sense of pollution,” he said, before adding that such countries “don’t do the responsibility.”

The comments fit into Trump’s well-established record on the issue. He’s called climate change a “hoax” and rolled back numerous environmental regulations. In June 2017, Trump announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord. 

Asked by Morgan whether he personally agrees with the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, Trump once again denied the reality that humans are making the world warmer. “I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” he said.

Trump reverses his own remarks on the UK’s National Health Service. Hours after sparking alarm with his suggestion that “everything,” including the UK’s National Health Service, would be on the negotiating table for a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal, Trump told Morgan that the NHS would not be considered.

“That’s something I would not consider part of trade,” the president said. “That’s not trade.”

The reversal appeared to underscore earlier questions about whether Trump understands what the NHS actually is.

Trump claims his presidency is making up for not serving in the Vietnam War. Trump received five military deferments, including one for a bone spurs diagnosis, that allowed him to avoid service during the Vietnam War. When Morgan asked about the medical condition and whether he now wishes he had been able to serve his country, Trump said that he was never a “fan” of the war, in part because it was “very far away.”

“You’re talking about Vietnam, and at that time, nobody ever heard of the country,” he said. “This isn’t like I’m fighting against Nazi Germany, we’re fighting against Hitler.”

He then claimed that he was “making up” for his lack of service “rapidly” by rebuilding the military.

It’s not the first time Trump has addressed the issue. In a 1997 interview with Howard Stern, Trump described his efforts in the 1980’s to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted disease as his “personal Vietnam.”

Trump falsely blames expensive health care for his transgender ban. In the interview’s most challenging moment, Morgan pressed Trump on his ban on transgender troops in the military, asking how he could claim to be supportive of LGBT communities with such a policy. “Because they take massive amounts of drugs,” Trump told Morgan. “They have to—and also, you’re not allowed to take drugs in the military—and they have to after the operation.” 

The president was likely referring to drugs for hormone treatment. Regardless, the military does not prohibit service members from using prescription drugs.

“The cost of the medication is minuscule compared to the overall budget,” Morgan told Trump, citing a report that the US military’s budget includes more money for Viagra than for medicals bills for transgender troops. “It just seems to me an unnecessary thing for a guy who wants to be supportive of LGBT rights and the community around the world that you’ve taken this action,” Morgan continued.

“Well, it is what it is,” Trump responded. “Also massive amounts of people going in and then asking for the operation, and the operation is $200,000, $250,000, and they have to take large amounts of drugs for that, large amounts, and you can’t do that.”

In fact, a 2016 RAND Corporation study found that relatively few active service members are likely to seek medical treatment for gender-related care and that the costs of such care are low. “Even upper-bound estimates indicate that less than 0.1 percent of the total force would seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy,” researchers concluded.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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