President Trump took some heat this weekend after it looked like he wasn’t listening to Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s speech at the G7 summit. Gentiloni was speaking in Italian, and Trump, who doesn’t speak Italian, looked like he didn’t have a translation headset on. This isn’t the first time this has happened. But Trump actually did have an earpiece in. It’s just really small.
President Donald Trump listens to Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni as they sit around a table during the G7 Summit in Italy on May 26, 2017 (Jonathan Ernst/Pool Photo via AP) with an arrow added by Gizmodo just in case you didn’t get the point
BBC correspondent James Landale posted a video yesterday showing the G7 meeting with the caption, “look who has chosen not to hear a translation of his Italian host’s speech.”
— James Landale (@BBCJLandale) May 27, 2017
The insinuation was that Trump wasn’t listening to Gentiloni. But Trump did have his earpiece in. It’s just tiny.
Trump is notorious for being tremendously disrespectful to foreign leaders. (Well, he’s disrespectful to foreign leaders who don’t have authoritarian tendencies, at least.) But Trump ostensibly listens to what most world leaders have to say. He just uses an earpiece that’s much smaller than most of his counterparts around the world.
Even when you look at the conversation in question from the flip side, it’s not immediately clear that Trump has a translation device:
President Donald Trump gestures next to Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi, left, and Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, right, at a G7 Summit expanded session in Taormina, Italy on May 27, 2017 (Jonathan Ernst/Pool Photo via AP)
But if you zoom in, you can see Trump’s earpiece behind his water glass:
There are other examples from the G7 summit as well. If you take a look at a different conference table that was used during the summit you can see that the world leaders had two choices: a full two-ear headset or a smaller earpiece.
Trump, like British Prime Minister Theresa May, seems to always opt for the smaller earpieces. My guess is that Trump doesn’t want to muss his hair, but who knows?
World leaders at the G7 summit in Italy on May 26, 2017 (Photo by Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung via Getty Images) and an altered zoomed in shot of the photo to show some of the different translation headsets available to them
Granted, there have been times in the past when Trump has just nodded along without an earpiece, like when he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House on February 10, 2017.
During their infamous handshake session, Trump nodded his head without any translation from Japanese at all. Needless to say, Trump doesn’t speak Japanese and was just going through the motions.
The White House said that Trump knew what Abe was going to say, so it didn’t matter, but it was still a strange sight to behold. Later, during a Q&A with the press, Trump nodded for a good 15 seconds before putting in his earpiece.
President Donald Trump listens to translation during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House on February 10, 2017 (Getty Images)
But more often than not, you simply can’t see Trump’s earpiece.
Back in April, Trump met with Chinese president Xi Jingping, and it looked like an identical situation as the one in Italy this past Friday. Trump’s lackeys, like Rex Tillerson and Wilbur Ross, all had their headsets on while it looked like Trump wasn’t listening to the translation from the Chinese leader.
listens as Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago on April 7, 2017 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Video of the event was seemingly even more damning. But Trump was listening. Or, at least we think he was. His tiny earpiece was only plainly visible from the other side of the table where there were no photographers.
If you took a very, very close look at the Associated Press photos and zoomed in, some of them showed the wire that was hanging down from his small earpiece.
President Donald Trump listens as Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago on April 7, 2017 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Other American leaders like President Barack Obama have also been fond of the smaller earpiece. In this photo from 2011 we see Obama laughing in France while listening to a translation using an earpiece not much bigger than Trump’s.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President George W. Bush seems to have preferred smaller earpieces too, as you can see from this 2007 photo:
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Though earlier in his presidency it looks like he may not have had much choice. The photos below from 2001 (left) and 2004 (right) show Bush using the larger headsets.
The 1990s attempts at earbuds were a bit more goofy looking, as you can see from this photo of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George Bush in July of 1991. Gorbachev looks like he’s playing doctor or something.
(AP Photo/Boris Yurchenko)
But at least the first Bush didn’t have to endure Reagan’s era of headphones. Below we see Reagan listening to translations on some extremely vintage cans in October of 1981 at the North-South Summit in Cancun, Mexico.
And back in President Jimmy Carter’s era it was far more common to just have a guy whispering over your shoulder from behind the couch, as you can see from this photo in September of 1981 with Carter and Japanese PM Zendo Suzuki.