White House defends President Trump’s golf habit and argues it’s different from Obama’s

WASHINGTON — During his daily briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that President Trump uses his time on the golf course productively.

Spicer’s comments came in response to a question from Yahoo News noting that Trump has visited the golf course at least 10 times since taking office eight weeks ago, even though for years he criticized former President Barack Obama for golfing. Most of Trump’s time on the links has been spent at the courses he owns in Florida, including a trip last weekend.

Spicer said there were “two things” to point out in response to the question. First, he pointed out that Trump took Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a golf weekend in Florida last month.

“You saw him utilize this as an opportunity with Prime Minister Abe to help foster deeper relationships … in Asia and have a growing relationship that’s going to help U.S. interests,” Spicer said of Trump. “How you use the game of golf is something that he’s talked about.”

Before taking office, Trump wrote a series of tweets attacking Obama for golfing.

“Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter,” Trump wrote in October 2014.

“President Obama should have gone to Louisiana days ago, instead of golfing. Too little, too late!” Trump exclaimed in the summer of 2016, after floods hit the state.

In addition to golfing recreationally, Obama sometimes was joined on the course by other political figures, including Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and former British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Donald Trump, Barack Obama golfing.
President Trump plays a round of golf, and former President Barack Obama celebrates after hitting a chip shot at a golf course in Hawaii. (Photos: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images, Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump also mocked Obama for golfing in multiple speeches during the presidential election campaign last year. And at one rally in Virginia in August, Trump insisted that he would do things differently.

“I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” he said.

At the briefing on Monday, Spicer made a second point, that Trump isn’t necessarily playing golf on all of his visits to courses.

“He had a mini-Cabinet meeting down — or two weekends ago — down at his club in Virginia,” said Spicer. “I remember so many people jumping to the conclusion that he was going down and playing golf. Just because you go somewhere doesn’t necessarily mean you did it. So, on a couple occasions, he’s actually conducted meetings there. He’s actually had phone calls. So, just because he heads there doesn’t mean that that’s what’s happening.”

It is unclear exactly what Trump has done on all of his visits to golf courses, because his aides have been vague when asked if the president was playing the game. However, Trump has clearly played golf on some of these visits. On Saturday, Chris Ruddy, a Trump confidante and CEO of the conservative media company Newsmax, posted a picture of the president posing with admirers at his course wearing a golf glove. Last month, Trump played a full 18 holes with pro Rory McIlroy. And CNN has reportedly witnessed Trump “driving up the 12th hole on his championship course at Trump International Golf Course” and golfing “multiple times” since he took office.

After Spicer suggested that Trump is using his time on the course productively and potentially for things other than golf, Yahoo News followed up and asked why the president and his aides aren’t being “a little more forthcoming” about his activities if this is indeed the case. Spicer said this secrecy is because the president deserves some privacy.

“I think the president is entitled to a bit of privacy at some point … which is what we’ve always agreed to.” Spicer said. “We bring the press pool, the protective pool, to be there, but the president, you know, is also entitled to a bit of privacy as well.”

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