United States President Donald Trump hosted Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the White House on October 16 2019, leading to viral claims Trump misstated Mattarella’s name as “mozzarella” before embarrassingly describing a friendship between the United States and Italy dating back to “ancient Rome”:
The rapidly-spreading posts show two screenshots of a purported White House conference translator with the following text:
So if you didn’t catch the presser with Trump and Italian President Sergio Mattarella, this is what you missed:
Trump claimed the US has been allies with Italy since ancient Rome.
He called President Mattarella, “President Mozzarella” several times.
He bashed NATO while praising Putin.
He said AG Barr met with Italian Intelligence to investigate crimes he is certain lead to President Obama.
He was noticeably slurring his words. Again.
Is it any wonder the Italian translator was looking at Trump like this??
A “can’t even make this shit up” hashtag accompanied the post, a phrase that we have noticed often appears with assertions that are, indeed, made up. Claims about Trump’s pronunciation of Mattarella’s name also appeared on Twitter:
I'm sorry did the President of the United States call the President of Italy "President Mozzarella" several times
— Don'tBeAFoolHat (@Popehat) October 16, 2019
Viral rumors that Trump called the Italian President “mozzarella” were popular in their own right, and particularly with Trump’s New York accent, the words “mozzarella” and “Mattarella” were enunciated in a virtually identical fashion. Trump’s remarks in their entirely were available as a video, during which Trump begins speaking at about around the 40-minute mark.
Trump says “Mattarella”at roughly the 41-minute mark, not saying “mozzarella” about as clearly as possible. Trump said “Mattarella” once again at 46:41, and again, did not say “mozzarella.”
As for his remarks about ancient Rome, a transcript of the press conference provided by the Boston Globe included that portion of Trump’s speech. Of note is that the video and transcript were provided not by the White House, but by newspapers reporting on the press conference independently.
“Ancient Rome” was mentioned almost immediately by Trump, who said:
The United States and Italy are bound together by a shared cultural and political heritage dating back thousands of years to Ancient Rome. Over the centuries, the Italian people have blessed our civilization with magnificent works of art, science, philosophy, architecture, and music. On Monday we paid tribute to the Italian explorer who led a voyage of discovery to the New World, a gentleman known as Christopher Columbus. And to me it will always be called “Columbus Day.” Some people don’t like that; I do.
Although Trump’s words in the “ancient Rome” portion were not carefully selected, he also seemed to be referencing an “ancient Rome” related heritage shared by many Americans — not a political alliance between two governments that did not exist at that point in history.
Trump then leapt right away to a point about Columbus Day, purportedly to mark Columbus’s voyage “to the New World.” Had Trump truly been confused about ancient Rome, he likely would not have immediately thereafter mentioned the “discovery.”
President Trump said “Mattarella” twice in his remarks that we heard, and he did not seem to say “mozzarella.” Additionally, Trump’s broader remarks about Italy, Columbus, and the “new world” seemed to underscore he was not discussing an alliance between the United States of America and “ancient Rome.”
The substance of the speech itself should certainly not be immune from scrutiny and criticism, but these particular critiques are not as clear-cut as they appear.