Donald Trump has appeared to claim ignorance at his administration’s own plan to pressure dozens of countries around the world into ending the criminalisation of homosexuality.
During an exchange with assembled media at the White House on Wednesday, the US president was asked about the initiative launched on Tuesday, which is being spearheaded by US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is gay.
“Mr President, on your push to decriminalise homosexuality, are you doing that? And why?” asks one journalist, in an exchange caught on camera.
Mr Trump, apparently missing the question, asks, “Say it?” to which the reporter repeats, “Your push to decriminalise homosexuality around the world”.
“I don’t know which report you’re talking about. We have many reports,” Mr Trump responds, before attempting to move on to another question.
While some speculated Mr Trump was unaware of the initiative, others suggested he wanted to avoid acknowledgement of it because it risked offending some of his supporters.
But Mr Grenell told NBC News, who first reported the plan, that it had strong backing "by both parties" in the US and even the country's religious conservatives. He said it would focus narrowly on ending criminalisation, rather than issues such as same-sex marriage.
“This is a bipartisan push. People understand - religious people, individuals who may not always be in the LGBTI fight - they understand that criminalizing homosexuality is absolutely wrong,” Mr Grenell said.
“It is unbelievable to believe that in today’s world a 32-year-old man in Iran can be hanged simply for being gay,” he added, in reference to the alleged execution of a man on anti-gay and kidnapping charges.
US officials told NBC News that the campaign is in part aimed at denouncing Iran over its human rights record, adding that the US government would likely work with international organisations including the United Nations and the European Union to put pressue on the 71 countries that still penalise homosexuality.
Mr Grenell revealed he had spoken to unnamed senators about conditioning US economic aid on countries abandoning their anti-LGBT+ laws.
The White House has been contacted for comment.