On Friday, Donald Trump told reporters that he'd spoken to members of George Floyd's family and expressed his "sorrow." Asked if the family had a message for him, the president didn't answer directly, instead saying, "They were grieving very much."
A day later, Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother, spoke to MSNBC's Al Sharpton and reflected on the same conversation.
"It was so fast. He didn't give me an opportunity to even speak. It was hard. I was trying to talk to him, but he just kept, like pushing me off. Like, 'I don't want to hear what you're talking about.'"
If ever there was a time for Trump to stop talking and start listening, it's now. To hear Philonise Floyd tell it, however, the president didn't seem interested.
As difficult as it was to hear George Floyd's brother express his frustration, there was a familiarity to the circumstances.
In August 2019, for example, after a mass shooting in El Paso, the president spoke with medical professionals at a hospital and boasted about the number of attendees he'd seen at a recent campaign rally in the city. He added that "crazy" Beto O'Rourke had a smaller crowd the same day -- as if that were what was important at that moment.
In November 2018, after a gunman opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, massacring 11 people, the president called Mayor Bill Peduto (D). As we discussed at the time, it didn't go especially well: Trump apparently focused much of his attention on death-penalty legislation. "I ended the conversation pretty quickly after that," the mayor said.
In June 2018, the president traveled to Texas to extend his support to families who'd lost loved ones in a Houston-area school shooting. Trump spoke to one grieving mother about his desire to dispatch armed security to schools, and soon after she told the Associated Press that having a conversation with the president "was like talking to a toddler."
In February 2018, after the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., Trump called Samantha Fuentes, a student who'd been shot and was left with a piece of shrapnel lodged behind her right eye. "Talking to the president, I've never been so unimpressed by a person in my life," she said after the conversation. "He didn't make me feel better in the slightest."
In October 2017, Trump reached out to Sgt. La David T. Johnson's widow, Myeshia Johnson, after he was killed in Niger. When their conversation didn't go well, the president ended up feuding with Ms. Johnson via Twitter.
I remain sure that there are probably examples of Trump comforting people in need during difficult times, but it's nevertheless difficult to look past the pattern in which the president's empathy gap has been on display. He struggles in his duties in a wide variety of ways, but it appears that asking Trump to play the role of Consoler in Chief is simply unrealistic.
"He didn't give me an opportunity to even speak. It was hard. I was trying to talk to him, but he just kept, like pushing me off. Like, 'I don't want to hear what you're talking about.'"
As a candidate, the future president, referring to himself in the third person, said empathy would be "one of the strongest things about Trump."
There's quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.