White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that she “would certainly not read anything” into photos of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly looking distressed during President Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations on Tuesday.
Kelly, who is known to be a strict disciplinarian, was photographed with his hand on his forehead and looking at the ground during the fiery speech, in which Trump called the North Korean leader “rocket man” and said he was on “a suicide mission.” He also said that if the rogue nation does not dial back its nuclear program, the US would “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” a country of 25 million people.
The photos of Kelly went viral on Tuesday, with some media outlets suggesting they are evidence of the former Army general’s dissatisfaction with the president. Other photos show Kelly looking alert and attentive.
Sanders told “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday morning that Kelly, who she said has “a great chemistry” with Trump, was likely just tired from the demands of the job.
“The president has an abundance of energy, I don’t know where it comes from, all of us on the staff are tired trying to keep up with him,” Sanders said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s part of it.”
“It doesn’t mean he’s upset by the speech?” host Brian Kilmeade asked.
Sanders replied that Kelly has been “part of the speech-writing process” and “very engaged.”
“So he read the speech ahead of time, so any reaction it might be because he’s tired, or he’s just got his hand on his forehead and the media wants to run with it,” host Ainsley Earhardt said.
“I would certainly not read anything into that picture anymore than probably, just like the rest of us, we’re tired trying to keep up with this president who’s working hard every day trying to help America,” Sanders said with a laugh.
But the photos are reminiscent of Kelly’s reaction to another Trump event – his freewheeling press conference in Trump Tower in August, during which he blamed violence at a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia “on many sides.” Kelly was pictured looking stern and displeased as Trump delivered his controversial answers to reporters’ questions.
Sonam Sheth contributed to this report.