Sean Spicer says Donald Trump ‘did not hear’ Angela Merkel’s request for a handshake

Rachael Revesz

The White House has come up with a new theory as to why Donald Trump apparently ignored Angela Merkel’s request for a handshake.

“I don’t think he heard the question,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer told German publication Der Spiegel.

The rest of the world did hear the German Chancellor asking the US President at their first meeting as to whether he wanted to shake hands, however, and they watched as he did not respond and instead stared back at the cameras, looking resolute.

It was only when the reporters were ordered to file out of the Oval Office that Mr Trump was seen to turn towards her, say something and put a hand on her arm.

The visit between the two leaders began in a friendlier fashion in Washington DC on Friday morning as they shook hands at the entrance to the White House.

But later, as the pair sat on two chairs side by side in the Oval Office, his apparent rebuff of the Chancellor was an awkward moment and was highly blasted by the German media.

The gaffe was seen as another thorn in the side from Mr Trump following his negative comments about the country’s stance on immigration and trade deals throughout the election campaign.

In a joint press conference after the photo opp last week, the two leaders shared little common ground.

Mr Trump re-iterated that other countries needed to spend their “fair share” on Nato while Ms Merkel remained stony faced.

Germany’s largest-selling daily, Bild, reported that Mr Trump did not once look Ms Merkel in the eye once.

The press focus on the lack of a handshake dominated reports of the meeting, in stark contrast to Mr Trump's other meetings with world leaders.

When Mr Trump met UK Prime Minister Theresa May, he was seen to grasp her hand as they walked towards the press conference together. With Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau there were plenty of smiles and eye contact despite little common ground. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to the capital, Mr Trump insisted the US would stand up for its ally and friend.

Mr Trump insisted that negative news reports about his meeting with Ms Merkel were inaccurate.

"Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel," he wrote on Twitter.

"Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!"

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