Donald Trump raises eyebrows by saying US has been 'bound with Italy since Ancient Rome'

Rebecca Speare-Cole
AP

President Donald Trump raised eyebrows after saying the US and Italy's shared cultural and political heritage dates back thousands of years to Ancient Rome.

The White House official Twitter account posted a clip of Mr Trump's comments during a press conference with Italian president Sergio Mattarella in Washington on Wednesday.

Mr Trump said: "The United States and Italy are bound together by a shared cultural and political heritage dating back thousands of years to Ancient Rome."

Many took to social media in confusion over his comment, with some pointing out that the US only turned 243 on July 4 this year.

One Twitter user wrote: "Our 243 year old country dates back thousands of years to ancient Rome - man of infinite wisdom."

Another joked: "It was during their first venture to Ancient Rome that the founding fathers discovered Spaghetios."

US President Donald Trump and Italian President Sergio Mattarella shake hands (AFP via Getty Images)

"Of course everyone knows that Julius Caesar invented the salad that bares his name and took it to New York in 44BC to share his cultural heritage," a Twitter user also wrote.

However, some commenters came to Mr Trump's defence, saying that Mr Trump was referring to how Ancient Rome "bequeathed a great deal of cultural, legal and historical tradition to the Western world."

During the White House meeting between the two leaders, Mr Trump voiced confidence that the US could not lose a tariff war with the European Union as it prepares to impose trade sanctions on up to $7.5 billion worth of EU goods.

Mr Trump then used the news conference with Mr Mattarella to urge Italy to increase its defence spending.

He said Italy is spending only 1.1 per cent of its gross domestic product on defence, short of a goal set by NATO allies during the Obama administration of spending 2 per cent.

Mr Trump said he was pleased, however, that Italy has agreed to purchase 90 "brand-new, beautiful F-35s," a fighter jet produced by Lockheed Martin.

The two leaders both expressed their support for Italian native Christopher Columbus.

Columbus Day was on Monday, but some cities and states instead recognise Indigenous Peoples' Day over concerns that Columbus helped launch centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.

"To me, it will always be called Columbus Day," Mr Trump said. "Some people don't like that. I do."

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