Japan’s First Lady Akie Abe Mysteriously Couldn’t Speak English When She Met Donald Trump at G-20

Earlier this month, before Donald Trump left his chair and walked over to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for a second time at a post-G-20 dinner, the American president was seated next to Japanese First Lady Akie Abe. And she didn’t talk to him.

As Trump told The New York Times in an exclusive interview Wednesday, Abe doesn’t speak English—“like, not ‘hello’”—so their conversation was lacking for the nearly two hours the world leaders and spouses spent mingling. The night went well, as Trump explained, but communicating was still difficult.

Related: Watch Donald Trump’s wild gestures at Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the G-20 dinner table 

“There was one interpreter for Japanese, ’cause otherwise it would have been even tougher,” Trump told the Times. “But I enjoyed the evening with her, and she’s really a lovely woman, and I enjoyed—the whole thing was good.”

Only one problem: Abe might actually know English.

A video was going viral Thursday on social media showing Abe giving the keynote address at a R3ADY Asia-Pacific symposium on coastal resilience in New York in 2014. In the clip, Abe reads a roughly 15-minute speech before finishing with a smile, bow and a “Thank you very much.”

Twitter quickly circulated the video Thursday, with several users naming Abe their “new hero,” as journalists disputed Trump’s claim. The Times’ Tokyo bureau chief, Motoko Rich, tweeted that Trump’s claim was “a false note.” Spencer Ackerman, a reporter for The Daily Beast, pointed out that Abe’s husband, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, once addressed Congress in English—so “his wife totally knows ‘hello.’” Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti came up with a theory that the first lady “pretended not to speak English for nearly two hours to avoid talking to Trump.”

We may never know what exactly went down between Abe and Trump at the dinner, but we do know that the American commander-in-chief went on to speak with Putin for nearly an hour at one point. The duo had already had a scheduled, publicized bilateral meeting, during which Trump said Putin denied meddling in the election, but at dinner they talked “privately and animatedly” without an American translator—“a breach of national security protocol,” as reporter Ian Bremmer wrote.

Trump, whose campaign is being investigated for having contact with the Kremlin, has decried reports of a “secret dinner” as “sick.”

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