President Donald Trump chuckled after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte joked about the media being “spies” during a press availability.
The pair of leaders spoke briefly before a bilateral meeting in the Philippines. As reporters shouted questions as the event ended, Duterte responded.
“We will be talking on matters of interest to both the Philippines,” Duterte said. “With you around, guys, you’re the spies. Yes, you are.”
Trump laughed at the joke, prompting several journalists to express their dissatisfaction.
“Trump allowed Duterte to shut down US reporters’ questions about human rights,” wrote CNN’s Jim Acosta. “Duterte told reporters they weren’t at a news conference. Question wasn’t answered.”
“177 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 1986, making it among the deadliest countries to be a journalist,” wrote Buzzfeed’s Megha Rajagopalan in response to the joke.
NBC’s Hallie Jackson recalled Duterte’s flippant comment after a journalist was killed in 2016.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch,” Duterte said.
According to the White House, Trump and Duterte spoke about combatting ISIS and the flow of illegal drugs as well as trade.
“Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Phillipeans government denied that human rights were discussed during the meeting.