If there's one thing the internet keeps a sharp lookout for, it's any indications that President Donald Trump is, well, confused. Whether it's a matter of advancing political conspiracy theories without evidence, or citing false facts like his repeated claim to have won the presidency by a historic Electoral College margin, there's plenty to keep track of. But those things are more serious and consequential than what transpired during Trump's joint presser with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni this week: Trump called Luciano Pavarotti his "great friend," despite the fact that the storied singer died nearly a decade ago.
In other words, the world of social media is abuzz with a very obvious question: Did Trump actually know that Pavarotti was no longer alive? Did he not know, or perhaps forget? Under normal circumstances, people probably wouldn't be scrutinizing this. But Trump has made some head-scratching remarks in the past ― like when he appeared to believe that Frederick Douglass was still alive, remarking that the 19th-century abolitionist was "someone who's done a great job," and was "getting recognized more and more, I notice."
The Pavarotti remark isn't quite so incriminating, and it's definitely open to interpretation. But first things first, you should watch the clip for yourself and be the judge.
During the presser, Trump said:
Through the ages, your country has been a beacon of artistic and scientific achievement that continues today. From Venice to Florence, from Verdi to Pavarotti ― friend of mine, great friend of mine.
The question, of course, is whether Trump's use of the present tense suggests that he believes Pavarotti is still among the living. The world-class Italian tenor died from pancreatic cancer back in 2007, at the age of 71. To be clear, it's entirely feasible that Trump actually did know this, and was simply making an awkward remark on his past friendship with Pavarotti. But given the memorable remarks about Douglass, it seems like a lot of people aren't giving him the benefit of the doubt.
One of Pavarotti's celebrated arias, "Nessun Dorma," was frequently played by the Trump campaign during its events, which disturbed the late singer's family. His widow Nicoletta Mantovani wrote a letter in response to the Trump campaign's use of her late husband's work:
We learned today that the aria "Nessun Dorma" performed by Luciano Pavarotti is being used [on] the Donald Trump campaign soundtrack. ... We remind you that the values of brotherhood and solidarity that Luciano Pavarotti upheld throughout his artistic career are incompatible with the world vision of the candidate Donald Trump.
According to NBC News, the letter was approved by his three daughters, too.
Pavarotti's surviving family taking issue with the Trump campaign using his music at its events wasn't a first, though. The campaign saw similar complaints from other artists, including R.E.M., the Rolling Stones, Queen, Elton John, and Steven Tyler.