Biden, the most famous gaffes of the US president

Elizabeth Smith

He said it himself once: “I’m a gaffe machine”. United States President Joe Biden is not short of self-irony regarding the fact that over the years he has made several fools between slips and phrases deemed inappropriate.

An aspect which, however, worries Americans quite a bit in the face of a possible re-election in 2024 of the occupant of the White House, already advanced in years.

Criticism for racism

Going back to 2008, when he launched his campaign as Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden described the latter as “the first eloquent, bright, clean and good-looking African American in politics.” An unfortunate phrase that earned him more than one criticism of racism.

The Indian accent

Not very different from the gaffe when Biden said that “it is now impossible to go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts if you don’t have a slight Indian accent”.

“Come on, get up Chuck!”

Also in 2008, Biden at a rally in Missouri addressed a local senator with great emphasis, repeating several times: “Come on, get up, Chuck! Show yourself, enjoy the well-deserved applause. Get up!”. Too bad Chuck Graham was paraplegic.

The imprecation

Then in 2010 there was Biden’s enthusiastic curse, captured by a microphone, addressed to Obama as he signed the historic Obamacare healthcare reform: “This is a big fuc**** deal”

The gaffe with the former Irish premier

In the same year it was the turn of former Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who heard Biden say: “His mother lived on Long Island for 10 years, may she rest in peace…”. Faced with general amazement and some laughter, he then turned to a stunned Cowen: “Ah… it’s your father who’s dead, your mother is still alive”.

Thatcher or May?

Instead, an unforgettable slip of the tongue comes from 2019: “Margaret Thatcher is seriously worried about the United States under the leadership of Donald Trump”. Biden clearly meant then-British Prime Minister Theresa May, but cited the Iron Lady who died in 2013.

The children

Accusations of racism also came to Biden for an unfortunate phrase he uttered in 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa, while talking about education. “Poor children are just as bright and just as talented as white children.” Then a short pause, before adding (and correcting himself): “Rich kids, black kids, Asian kids”.

“End quote”

As president, one of the gaffes that went around the world was that of the conference in which he was announcing that he had signed an executive order with measures to support the right to abortion.

Biden – from the teleprompter he was using to read the speech – also accidentally read some suggestions left by his collaborators. “Interestingly, the percentage of women who are registered to vote is always higher than the percentage of men who do so,” he said, before adding “end quote, repeat sentence.”

The confusion about the All Blacks

In April 2023, in Ireland, on the sidelines of a visit to a pub in Dundalk – the place of origin of some of his ancestors north of Dublin – Biden confused the All Blacks, the legendary rugby team of New Zealand, with the Black and Tans, British military unit known for terrorizing the Irish-Catholic population of Ulster during the bloody civil war of the Troubles.

“God save the Queen”

In June 2023, Biden concluded a speech in Connecticut by saying “God save the Queen”, the traditional motto of the British anthem which has now become “God save the King” after the accession to the throne of Charles III.

It is unclear what he meant, which queen he was referring to and why he said those words. A mystery that lasted until the White House explained that the president of the United States had “made a comment to someone in the crowd”.

The Indian hymn

Less than a week later, Biden welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House. During the national anthems, the US president solemnly raised his right hand over his heart, only to realize after 17 seconds that the orchestra was playing the anthem of the host country: India.

Biden then slowly let his hand slide into the more neutral starting position, along his sides.

Ukraine or Iraq?

And again in June 2023, speaking to journalists, Biden confused Ukraine with Iraq. To a question about Vladimir Putin, the commander in chief responded: “He’s clearly losing the war in Iraq. He’s losing the war at home. And he’s become a bit of a pariah around the world.”

Three mistakes in one speech

As reported by CNN, in August 2023 Biden made three mistakes in a single speech. First he said he witnessed the collapse of a bridge in Pittsburgh in 2022, when in reality he visited the site more than six hours after the collapse.

Then he stated that his grandfather had died a few days before his birth in the same hospital, while his grandfather had died more than a year earlier in another state. And, finally, he said he had had a conversation with an Amtrak train driver, who was dead at the time.

“Good evening Vietnam”

A joke made by Biden during a press conference in Vietnam in September 2023 was deemed inappropriate. “Good evening everyone, it’s already evening, right? It was around the world in five days, one of my collaborators told me: ‘You do you remember the famous song Good morning Vietnam?’ Well, good evening Vietnam”.

However, not everyone liked the quote with which US Air Force DJ Adran Cronauer opened his morning broadcasts on army radio during the Vietnam War.

“I’m going to bed now”

And again in Vietnam, while the meeting with journalists was underway, Biden suddenly said: “I’m going to bed now”. Only to then, as if nothing had happened, start answering questions again.

The attacks of September 11

Then it was the turn of the 22nd anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Biden said he went to Ground Zero the day after the attacks, but the American media recalled that the then senator arrived in New York on September 20, a circumstance then also confirmed by the White House.

Mitterrand

In February 2024 Biden said he saw François Mitterrand in 2021, but the former French president died in 1996. “And Mitterrand of Germany – I mean, of France – looked at me and said, ‘Tell me, what… Why… How long have you been back for?’. I looked at him and the German Chancellor said to me: ‘What would he say if tomorrow he picked up the London Times and read: A thousand people storm the House of Commons, break down doors, 2 policemen killed to stop the election of the prime minister?’” he said. Same mistake happened in 2022.

Read also: Race to the White House, Kamala Harris: ‘I am ready to serve as a leader’

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