Two things have long obsessed President Trump: Time’s person of the year and the 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg.
This week they collided when Time picked her for its annual cover. It was never in doubt that the president would tweet about it. The only question was when.
Early Thursday, the answer arrived.
“So ridiculous,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”
Ms. Thunberg was quick to respond.
“A teenager working on her anger management problem,” read a new version of her Twitter biography. “Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”
People on Twitter weighed in on Mr. Trump’s remarks. Michelle Obama, in a message addressing Ms. Thunberg directly, wrote: “don’t let anyone dim your light.”
“Like the girls I’ve met in Vietnam and all over the world, you have so much to offer us all,” Mrs. Obama, who was recently in Vietnam to promote girls’ education, tweeted. “Ignore the doubters and know that millions of people are cheering you on.”
“Nothing like going after a young girl with Asperger Syndrome to drive home the point that you are fit for office,” Holly Figueroa O’Reilly, an op-ed writer for The Washington Post and The Guardian, said on Twitter. (Ms. Thunberg has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and has called it “a superpower.”)
Others on Twitter zeroed in on Melania Trump’s tweet from earlier this month in which she said a minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics after her son, Barron Trump, was mentioned in the impeachment hearings by Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor.
“Did you tell your horrible husband to leave @GretaThunberg alone?” the actress Yvette Nicole Brown asked the first lady on Twitter. “Maybe he’ll listen to you,” she added, using the trending hashtag “BeBest,” a nod to Ms. Trump’s child-focused platform dedicated to kindness and well being.
Thursday’s exchange was not the first tangle between Mr. Trump, whose administration has attacked climate science and rolled back environmental regulations, and Ms. Thunberg, who was in Madrid for the United Nations climate conference this week.
After she delivered a pointed speech at the United Nations in September, the young activist became a lightning rod for criticism. Mr. Trump tweeted a clip of her speech with the seemingly sarcastic message: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
That time, Ms. Thunberg also changed her Twitter biography, describing herself as “a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”
She has also faced attacks from others on the right. Fox News apologized in September after a pundit called Ms. Thunberg “a mentally ill Swedish child” on one of its programs.
Mr. Trump wasn’t the only person to criticize Time’s 2019 selection.
“No matter your political leaning, whether you love her or hate her, whether you’re for Trump or against him,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi “has had a much bigger impact,” Jake Sherman, a senior writer at Politico, said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Ms. Thunberg was selected over Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Trump, the Ukraine whistle-blower and the Hong Kong protesters, who won Time’s 2019 person of the year in a reader poll that had more than 27 million votes.
Ms. Thunberg told The Associated Press she was “surprised” to learn she had been selected as Time’s person of the year, but said the accolade should be shared.
“It should be everyone in the Fridays for Future movement because what we have done, we have done together,” she said.