President Biden on Thursday confused the leaders of Mexico and Egypt during a press conference in which he forcefully rebutted a special counsel report that offered a harsh assessment of his memory and recall abilities.
Biden delivered remarks from the White House in which he sharply pushed back against conclusions from special counsel Robert Hur that the president presented during an interview with investigators as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
“My memory’s fine. Take a look at what I’ve done since I became president… how did that happen? I guess I just forgot what was going on,” Biden said, striking a sarcastic tone.
But when he fielded a question about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Biden mistakenly referred to Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as the “president of Mexico.”
“I think as you know initially, the president of Mexico, El-Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to humanitarian material to get in. I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate,” Biden said.
A clip of the comment quickly traveled around social media, where Republicans seized on it as the latest evidence that Biden had lost a step.
“weak and sad,” Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Nothing to see here. Nothing at all,” Trump adviser Jason Miller wrote.
Biden allies were quick to dismiss the fixation on the slip-up, arguing critics and reporters were missing the broader point that he had delivered impassioned and cogent remarks and instead chose to hone in on one sentence.
“Biden addressed their concern, gave the access they wanted, patiently waited through wildly screamed questions, and gave a long substantive answer that marked a shift in US foreign policy on a major conflict. They’re fixating on a slip,” House Democratic aide Aaron Fritschner wrote on X.
It was the third time this week Biden has appeared to confuse world leaders.
Biden told donors at a New York fundraiser on Wednesday a story about his trip to his first Group of Seven (G-7) meeting after taking office, when he declared “America’s back.” But in recounting the story, he referred to Helmut Kohl of Germany, who served as chancellor from 1982 to 1988. He died in 2017.
Angela Merkel was the German chancellor at the time of Biden’s first G7 meeting as president.
The mix-up echoed a similar instance Sunday at a Nevada campaign event, when Biden was telling the same story about his meeting with world leaders at the G7. But in that episode, Biden mistakenly named the president of France as François Mitterrand instead of Emmanuel Macron.
Mitterrand served as president of France from 1981-95. He died in 1996. Macron has been in office since 2017.
Biden’s age and cognitive abilities have been a prime target for Republican opponents, who have otherwise struggled to land blows against him for his policy positions. And polling has shown it continues to be a concern among many voters ahead of November’s general election.
An NBC News poll published this week found 76 percent of voters, including 54 percent of Democrats, said they had major or moderate concerns when asked whether Biden, 81, has “the necessary mental and physical health to be president for a second term.”
Biden would be 86 at the end of a potential second term. The president has said it is fair for voters to consider his age, but he and his team have stressed that he should be judged on his record of achievements while in office.
His likely opponent, former President Trump, is 77 and in recent weeks has faced increasing scrutiny over his own gaffes.
Trump at one October rally appeared to confuse the leaders of Hungary and Turkey. In January, he repeatedly confused former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with his GOP primary opponent Nikki Haley, falsely claiming Haley was in charge of security during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
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