WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump was photographed in golfing attire again over the weekend, but the White House doesn’t want to talk much about his proclivity for hitting the links.
Trump had been a fierce critic of former president Barack Obama for his frequent outings to the golf course.
“President Obama has a major meeting on the N.Y.C. Ebola outbreak, with people flying in from all over the country, but decided to play golf!” Trump tweeted in 2014.
Since taking office, however, Trump, an avid golfer who is reportedly a better player than his predecessor, has not shied away from his favorite pastime. His weekend outing in Florida was his 11th visit to one of his courses in the Sunshine State in his first two months, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS News White House correspondent who has logged detailed statistics on presidential outings over several administrations.
The White House did not disclose whether Trump played golf over the weekend, but a photo posted on Twitter by Newsmax chief executive Christopher Ruddy, a friend of the president, showed Trump wearing a golfing glove and posing with two others at the club.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday defended Trump’s golfing, saying the president has used the outings not just for personal pleasure but to do business, pointing to his outing with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida, on Feb. 11. The two played a total of 27 holes in a single day at two of Trump’s golf clubs near Mar-a-Lago, the president’s winter resort where he has spent most weekends since taking office.
“You saw him utilize this with Prime Minister Abe to help foster a deeper relationship in Asia and have a growing relationship that’s going to help U.S. interests,” Spicer said. “How you use the game of golf is something he’s talked about.”
Except that Obama also played a round with an Asian leader – in 2014, when he hit the links with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during Obama’s winter vacation in Hawaii.
Obama did not golf with world leaders or members of Congress on a regular or even semiregular basis, preferring to surround himself with close friends, pro athletes and celebrities or White House aides. But the Obama White House regularly disclosed to the press corps when the president was playing golf, on weekends and even on vacation.
Trump’s aides have not done so. Of the 11 trips to his Florida golf clubs, the White House has confirmed he played a round only three times, according to Knoller’s tally.
“We had a mini-Cabinet meeting two weeks ago at his club in Virginia,” Spicer said, referring to Trump’s gathering of some top aides at Trump National Virginia in Potomac Falls two weeks ago. “People jump to the conclusion he’s going to play golf. On a couple of occasions he’s actually conducted meetings there, had phone calls.”
So why won’t the White House be more forthcoming about his time on the course? “The president is entitled to a bit of privacy at some point,” Spicer said.