CNN Obsesses Over Who Initiated Handshake Between Trump and Merkel

July 6, 2017

CNN host John Berman and correspondent Jeff Zeleny obsessed over optics and who initiated the handshake between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.

Merkel greeted Trump at the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg with a handshake and brief conversation ahead of the G-20 summit, which is scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

"It is notable that the body language this time, the pictures are up right now, are better and different than perhaps we had seen  in the initial meetings between the president and the German chancellor," Berman said. "Do you get the sense that the White House was preparing for this, cares about the optics of the meeting between these two leaders?"

Zeleny said that he believed the White House did care about the optics as Trump has had several handshake blunders, including one with Merkel in the Oval Office where they simply did not shake hands.

"I am told that she initiated the handshake by a pool reporter in the room that she initiated this handshake here, so yes optics always matter in this case, " Zeleny said.

"I think we probably make more of them now in the age of social media than we used to," he continued. "There are always awkward moments here, but it's the substance of this meeting. They have so many disagreements, John, that really will be an issue here for these two countries going forward."

The video of Trump shaking hands with Merkel played on the screen again, and Berman confirmed that Merkel did appear to initiate the handshake with Trump.

"Her hand went out first. Outreach. Physical, literal outreach from Germany to the United States," Berman said.

"But we are in her hometown, her own country, John, so it seems sort of hospitable because she would be someone to do that, so I don't find that that strange actually," Zeleny concluded.

Berman referred to Zeleny as the "protocol chief" at the end of the interview.

Trump's handshake with Merkel was not the only handshake that the media obsessed over on Thursday. A video clip spread around Twitter showing what appeared to be Poland's first lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, rejecting Trump's handshake during his trip to Warsaw, Poland.

However, the full video reveals that Kornhauser-Duda's eyesight was focused on First Lady Melania Trump and she went to shake her hand first, before shaking the president's hand, rather than the narrative that she was snubbing him.

Trump had been shaking hands with Polish President Andrzej Duda when she walked by. After she shook Melania Trump's hand, she shook the president's hand. The full exchange can be seen below in NBC reporter Bradd Jaffy's tweet.