White House spokesman Josh Earnest has a new nickname for Philippine trade minister Ramon Lopez: the "Filipino Mike Pence."
Earnest was responding to a question about Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, known by some as the "Trump of the East," calling for a diplomatic separation between the U.S. and Philippines.
"America has lost now. I've realigned myself in your ideological flow," Duterte said in China on Thursday, according to Politico. "And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It's the only way."
Lopez later attempted to clean up Duterte's comments, telling CNN Philippines “the president did not talk about separation.” Duterte, after returning home to the Philippines, also walked back the remark.
"It's not severance of ties," Duterte said. "Severance is to cut diplomatic relations. I cannot do that. Why? It's in the best interests of my country that I don't do that."
But the White House, which already has a complicated relationship with the Philippine government, seized upon the comment anyway.
“We have seen too many troubling statements from President Duterte over the past several months,” Earnest said Friday. The presidential spokesman at another point drew laughs from the press corps after saying he refers to Lopez as the "Filipino Mike Pence."
Throughout the U.S. general election cycle, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump's running mate, has repeatedly tried to clarify or clean up controversial remarks the Republican presidential nominee has made. Pence most recently stated that he and Trump will "absolutely" accept the outcome of the election, despite Trump's earlier comments about the election being "rigged" against him.