Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates described meeting President Donald Trump for the first time and being struck by how he didn't know the difference between HPV and HIV, but could recall his daughter's appearance in a "scary" amount of detail.
In a recording of a recent event for staff of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that was obtained and aired by MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes show on Thursday, Gates admitted that he had avoided Trump when they both happened to be at the same event during the 2016 presidential campaign, but he eventually met the then president-elect in New York in December 2016.
Trump already knew one of his family members. Gates' 22-year-old daughter Jennifer, an award-winning equestrian, had taken part at an event organized by Trump in Florida. Trump had talked to her and "was being supernice," Gates told the audience.
"And then about 20 minutes later he flew in on a helicopter to the same place. So clearly he had been driven away, but he wanted to make a grand entrance in a helicopter,” he said.
“So when I first talked to him, it was actually kind of scary how much he knew about my daughter’s appearance," he continued, as some members of the audience audibly groaned. "Melinda [Gates’s wife] didn’t like that too well,” he added.
It's unclear when and where the event Gates referred to took place, but there have been several documented occasions that both Jennifer and Trump attended.
Trump began organizing an annual show-jumping competition in 2013 at Mar-a-Lago called the Trump Invitational Grand Prix. Jennifer took part in the competition in 2014, when she was 18, and again in 2015. The competition was cancelled in 2016 due to heavy rain, and by then Trump was busy running for the White House.
Gates said that during his first meeting at Trump Tower, the president referred to himself in the third person. "When I walked in, his first sentence kind of threw me off. He said: ‘Trump hears that you don’t like what Trump is doing.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, but you’re Trump,’" he said, drawing laughter from the audience.
The two have since met again. Gates recalled a meeting with the president at the White House in March 2017 which, he said, presented some similarities with their first encounter. "In both of those two meetings, he asked me if vaccines were a bad thing," Gates said.
At the time, Trump was considering setting up a commission to investigate "vaccine safety" under the advice of vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose concerns about a vaccine-autism link have thoroughly been examined and debunked. Those plans that have since stalled—also thanks to Gates, who said he told Trump, "No, that's a dead end. Don't do that."
Vaccines weren't the only medical issue on Trump's mind. He also wanted to know more about the difference between HPV and HIV, two very different viruses that are both classified as sexually transmitted infections, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on its website.
"Both times he wondered whether there was a difference between HPV and HIV," Gates said, "and I was able to explain those are rarely confused with each other."