Did Donald Trump just crack a gay joke about French President Macron?

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Donald Trump wants everyone to know that French President Emmanuel Macron “loves” holding his hand.

The US President just returned from a state visit to France, where he was hosted by the country’s new centre-ground leader Emmanuel Macron.

The French leader, who is married to wife Brigitte, faced gay smears from state-run Russian state media outlets during his election campaign.

In an interview with the New York Times today the US President – who subjected Macron to a cringe-worthy 30 second handshake – suggested the French leader “loves” holding men’s hands.

President Trump said: “He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.

“People don’t realise he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.”

He continued: “I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be.

“I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.”

Though clearly a reference to the handshake, some Twitter users questioned whether Trump was making a homophobic assertion about Macron’s masculinity.

The centrist leader has been married to his former school teacher Brigitte Trogneux since 2007, but was subjected to repeated homophobic smears on the campaign trail.

During the campaign Macron banned Russian state news outlets from his events, after Kremlin-owned outlet Sputnik published ‘gay’ smears alleging a “persistent rumour that [Macron] is secretly gay and living a ‘double life’”, and also accusing him of being in the pocket of a “very wealthy gay lobby”.

Despite being dismissed as propaganda, the rumours spread like wildfire across France and Europe, with a Danish MP branding him a “pretty little gay boy”.

Meanwhile, a Russian tabloid newspaper branded Macron a ‘gay psychopath’.

Macron lashed out at Russian outlets’ repeated homophobic assertions and attempts to spread gay hoaxes about him.

In an interview, Macron said: “Two things are vile behind the implication: to say that it is not possible for a man living with an older woman to be anything other than a homosexual or a hidden gigolo is misogynous. And it’s also homophobia.

“If I had been a homosexual, I would say it and I would live it.”

Macron dedicated an entire section of his manifesto to LGBT issues.

Related: France’s Macron challenges Vladimir Putin on LGBT rights