U.S. President Donald Trump has asked a Turkish pro-government journalist whether she is sure that she's a reporter, upon her question regarding Ankara's incursion into northern Syria.
During a joint press conference with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Nov. 13, Trump told his Turkish counterpart to call on a "friendly reporter."
"Would you like to pick somebody? A friendly person from Turkey, please. Friendly – only friendly reporters we like to see. There aren't too many of them around," Trump said.
To that, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was in attendance at the press briefing, was heard by several reporters saying, "There aren't any others left," referring to the fact that dozens of critical journalists are in Turkish prisons.
The Turkish president then chose Hilal Kaplan, a columnist in a pro-Erdoğan newspaper, who started off her question to Trump by bashing his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.
"You had the burden of Obama's flawed foreign policy and one of those flaws was aligning the U.S. with a U.S.-designated terrorist organization: the PKK, and a Syrian offshoot YPG. You're trying to manage the damage it did to U.S.-Turkey relations," Kaplan said, using abbreviations for the Kurdistan Workers' Party and its Syrian affiliate People's Protection Units.
"However you also invited the ring-leader of [the] YPG to the White House. His code name [is] Mazloum Abdi and he is responsible for at least 18 terrorist attacks in Turkey, which caused the death of 164 soldiers and 48 civilians. So, after today's meeting, do you still think of inviting him to the White House, which would be very offensive and hurtful to the Turkish people?" she added, referring to the leader of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Following Kaplan's question, Trump asked whether she is really a reporter - a question that created a Twitterstorm.
"You can ask the president a question now. Same reporter – you sure you're a reporter? You don't work for Turkey with that question?" Trump said after answering the Turkish reporter's question.
Turkey launched its military offensive in northern Syria following Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the area.
Trump's decision was slammed by both Republicans and Democrats due to the target of Turkey's operation being the SDF, which was the main U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS.