Trump Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Appears to Fall Asleep During President's UN Speech

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross appeared to fall asleep Tuesday during President Donald Trump's wide-ranging U.N. speech railing against Iran and "globalist" powers.

Ross, 81, looked like he was dozing off as Trump spoke to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, closing his eyes for nearly 15 minutes, according to several videos recorded during the event in New York City. Trump spoke briefly about ongoing attempts at negotiating trade talks with China, which Ross is helping to lead. The octogenarian official has previously had his "stamina" questioned as former department advisers claimed he was "not respected" for being unable to hold the Commerce Department together.

This is not the first time Ross, a longtime investment banker, has fallen asleep at one of his boss' speeches during his tenure as Trump's commerce secretary. In May 2017, television cameras showed Ross taking a nap with his translation headphones in as Trump spoke in Saudi Arabia.

Update: Secretary Ross issued a statement Tuesday responding to reports he fell asleep at the U.N. speech: This is fake news. I wear hearing aids and, during President Trump's inspiring speech, which covered in detail the entire range of significant issues facing the world, was concentrating on what was being said.

Immediately following the President's remarks, I attended bilateral meetings with the leaders of the United Kingdom and India, and, later in the day, will have follow-up meetings with officials from the United Kingdom and South Korea. Additionally, throughout the entirety of the UN General Assembly, I attended events or am planning to participate in meetings with the governments of Pakistan, Poland, Egypt, Japan, Greece, and Vietnam.

On Sunday, I will depart on twelve days of official travel to London, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Yangon, Naypyidaw, Canberra, and Sydney. This is not the schedule of someone with low energy.

Trump briefly mentioned and commended Ross and several other members of his cabinet during Tuesday's address.

"Likewise, Secretary Mike Pompeo, Ambassador Kelly Craft, Secretary Ross, Secretary Mnuchin, Ambassador Sam Brownback all for joining us today. And we have other representatives of our Cabinet and the administration in the room. We've done a lot," Trump said.

A stone-faced Pompeo and an emotionless Vice President Mike Pence could be seen sitting just in front of the sleeping commerce secretary.

A July Politico report citing a former Commerce adviser claimed Ross "tends to fall asleep in meetings. They try not to put him in a position where that could happen, so they're very careful and conscious about how they schedule certain meetings ... There's a small window where he's able to focus and pay attention and not fall asleep."

The Commerce Department has not responded to the claims Ross consistently falls asleep on the job.

On Monday, Trump received criticism from environmentalists and others for standing up and leaving in the middle of the U.N. Climate Action Summit in order to attend a simultaneous meeting about a "global call to protect religious freedom." He departed ahead of young European environmental activist Greta Thunberg's climate speech to the assembled world leaders.

Trump used his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday to lash out against Iran's "bloodlust" and to tout the importance of national sovereignty. "The future does not belong to globalists," he warned.

"If you want freedom, take pride in your country," Trump said. "If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty and if you want peace, love your nation. Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their country first. The future does not belong to globalists, the future belongs to patriots," he said. "The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors and honor the differences that make each country special and unique."

"All nations have a duty to act, no responsible government should subsidize Iran's bloodlust," he said, promising to tighten sanctions if Iran continued its aggression.

wilbur ross sleeping un speech
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross appeared to fall asleep during President Donald Trump's wide-ranging U.N. speech railing against Iran and "globalist" powers on September 24 in New York City. Screenshot: CNN