A Turkish security guard kicks a protestor in Washington in May 2017. Photo: Voice of America via AP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told PBS NewsHour that President Trump apologized to him about the May incident in which Turkish security personnel beat peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C.

Pushback: A White House official told Axios that Erdogan and Trump "discussed a wide range of issues" on the call but "the comments were not true and the President did not apologize."

The quote: "Actually President Trump called me about a week ago about this issue. He said that he was sorry and he told me he was going to follow up about this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit. The protesters were insulting us, and they were screaming and shouting. The police failed to intervene properly."

The incident: Erdogan looked on as guards charged into a park and clashed with protesters. Trump did not speak out against the violence at the time, but it belatedly sparked a diplomatic incident as arrest warrants were issued for 12 of Erdogan's security guards, and four other security officials were arrested. Erdogan said that was a "scandalous sign of how justice works in the United States." More recently, Congress has considered banning guns sales to Erdogan's presidential security.

The broader picture: Turkey is a key strategic ally of the U.S., but there have been severe strains on the relationship, one of which centers on the U.S. alliance with Kurdish fighters against ISIS. Erdogan has also been acting in an increasingly authoritarian fashion after a failed coup attempt last year, and Trump was criticized for congratulating him on winning a constitutional referendum that was widely viewed as a power grab.

This story has been updated with the denial from the White House.

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