He even once invented a friend, Jim, to hammer his point home.
President Donald Trump spent Bastille Day in Paris alongside his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron. Although the visit was centered around a military parade commemorating the United States’ entry into World War I, the one-year anniversary of the terror attack in Nice also happened to fall on Friday.
A man rammed a truck through throngs of people on the city’s main promenade last year, killing 84. France has faced a handful of terror attacks in recent years, including two major attacks in 2015 alone. The country has experimented with a handful of measures to clamp down on the threat, including an extended state of emergency that allows authorities to search homes and places of worship without warrants.
Trump tweeted Friday that the U.S. “mourns for the victims” and stands in solidarity with France in the fight against terror.
Yet just a few months earlier, he took a slightly different approach, criticizing the French government for its handling of the attacks:
The repeated attacks, he lamented, had hindered his friend’s annual vacations.
“Take a look at Nice and Paris,” Trump said in February. “I have a friend, he’s a very, very substantial guy. He loves the City of Lights, he loves Paris.
“For years, every year during the summer, he would go to Paris. Hadn’t seen him in a while, and I said, ‘Jim let me ask you a question: How’s Paris doing?’”
“Paris? I don’t go there anymore,” Jim replied, according to Trump. “Paris is no longer Paris.” (An Associated Press report released Thursday concluded that Jim likely does not exist.)
Anne Hidalgo, Paris’ mayor, responded directly to Trump and Jim:
He has also directly blamed the governments of countries like France and Germany.
They have been “compromised by terrorism,” Trump said in an NBC’s “Meet The Press” interview last July. “They have totally been. And you know why? It’s their own fault. Because they allowed people to come into their territory.”
France, like much of Europe, has experienced a mass influx of migrants and refugees in the last few years. In neighboring Germany, more than 1 million refugees were registered in 2015 alone. But many right-wing politicians have exploited fears about the refugee crisis, including beliefs that those fleeing from war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq are extremists.
And after a minor attack in Paris in April that left one police officer dead, Trump said he thought the incident would “probably help” Marine Le Pen, formerly the leader of the extreme-right National Front party. Le Pen lost to Macron in the final round of this year’s presidential election.
She would be the candidate who is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” he said at the time ― an indirect critique not only of the way French government had been dealing with the attacks, but also of her opponent Macron and his plan to combat terrorism.
Macron, however, appeared to view Trump’s past comments as water under the bridge. He used this week’s visit as an excuse to reinforce the Franco-American alliance and state that he and Trump possess “no gap” in their ideologies about terrorism.
“We have one main goal which is to eradicate terrorism, no matter who they are, we want to build an inclusive and sustainable political solution,” Macron said Thursday during a joint news conference.
Macron headed to Nice to pay homage to the victims of the attack after Trump’s departure on Friday.