After President Donald Trump heaped lavish praise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s intellect and personality earlier this week following their historic summit, he raised more eyebrows on Friday by suggesting that he wanted Americans to defer to him the same way North Koreans do to Kim.
“He’s the head of a country, and I mean, he’s the strong head, don’t let anyone think anything different,” Trump said during an interview on Fox & Friends. “He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”
When asked whether Kim could be a guest at the White House soon, Trump said, “I think it’s something that could happen.” He also seemed to tout Kim’s firing of multiple generals shortly before their meeting. “I think he fired at least [three generals],” Trump said.
These comments are the latest in a series of compliments Trump has given Kim in the wake of the summit between the two leaders on Tuesday. Trump had even joked during the summit that an anchor on North Korean state television, which broadcasts propaganda on behalf of Kim, praised Kim even more generously than Fox News did for Trump, according to Washington Post reporting.
Later on Friday morning, Trump clarified that he was only joking when he said that Americans should “sit up at attention” for him the same way North Koreans do for Kim. “I’m kidding. You don’t understand sarcasm,” he told reporters.
Trump’s effusive praise of Kim, a brutal dictator, has stunned many. Republican lawmakers seemed to struggle with how to respond to this topic when pressed by Vox’s Tara Golshan earlier this week.
North Korea’s history of human rights abuses is well-established. According to a 2017 International Bar Association report, there has been evidence of ”systematic murder (including infanticide), torture, persecution of Christians, rape, forced abortions, starvation and overwork leading to countless deaths,” and other crimes against humanity. That same report said that the Kim regime has “designed and perpetuated a brutal, totalitarian regime, a signature feature of which is a network of political prisons that has no parallel in the world today.”
As ABC News points out, Trump’s seeming veneration of Kim marks a significant turnaround from his remarks at the United Nations last fall. “No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea,” Trump said, at the time. “It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more.”