“Where’s my favorite dictator?” Trump said as at a hotel in Biarritz, France, where the two were reportedly set to meet last month. A group of at least 10 U.S. and three Egyptian officials was reportedly awaiting Sisi’s arrival.
Several American and Egyptian officials who were in the same room as Trump overheard his remark, the Journal reported. It isn’t clear if Sisi was there or if he heard the comment.
Many said they thought Trump was making a joke, but the comment reportedly prompted silence from the group.
Egypt’s foreign affairs minister and chief of the General Intelligence Service were also said to be present.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
Since taking power in 2013, Sisi has come under fire for his authoritarian leadership and has faced accusations of detaining, torturing and killing prisoners who disagreed politically, the Journal noted.
Trump has previously said of Sisi: “We understood each other very well. He’s a very tough man, I will tell you that. But he’s also a good man, and he’s done a fantastic job in Egypt. Not easy.”