(CNN)The action lasted mere seconds, but it has split social media and left people pondering: When is a bend a bow?
During the first stop on his inaugural trip abroad, President Donald Trump, like presidents before him, was honored with Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Abdulaziz al-Saud.
But no sooner had the 6-foot-2-inch President leaned in so that the much shorter Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud could place the medal around his neck than the politically tinged questions started flying: Was it a bow? A curtsey? Some awkward combination thereof?
Whatever the answer, it was, perhaps, the one muted note of social media discord in an otherwise controversy-free first day of travel.
That’s in part because in 2012, after flirting with the idea of running for president, Trump sharply criticized President Barack Obama for bowing to then-Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz when he got his award a few years earlier.
Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, denied at the time of the visit that that 6’1″ Obama had bowed, saying the President “bent over … to shake with both hands.”
But Trump questioned that on Twitter during the 2012 campaign: “Do we still want a President who bows to the Saudis …?” he asked.
Republicans and conservative media also seized upon the moment, which an editorial in The Washington Times claimed, “belittled the power and independence of the United States,”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee even used Obama’s bow in a fundraising ad, asking whether “the president of the world’s pre-eminent superpower be groveling at the feet of a Saudi King.”
In light of all this, some on social media are slamming both Trump and conservative media outlets as hypocritical for commending the President for what they characterized as his refusal to bow down.
Others dispute the bow, instead mocking Trump for “curtsying.”
Still others came to the President’s defense, saying he was just trying to show respect.
But, in keeping with his relative public silence through most of the day, the President has not responded to the social media buzz, a rare turn for someone rarely short on words — especially on Twitter.
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