11 July 2024

US President Joe Biden has confused a European leader with a dead predecessor for the second time in a week, telling a campaign event he met Helmut Kohl four years after the German chancellor passed away.

The 81-year-old’s gaffe late Wednesday came days after he said he had spoken to long-dead French president Francois Mitterrand, instead of current leader Emmanuel Macron, at the same G7 summit in June 2021 where he said he had met Kohl.

Biden, who is seeking reelection in November, often tells the same story about the summit held in the United Kingdom to illustrate what he says were global concerns about the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

“Helmut Kohl of Germany looked at me and said, ‘What would you say Mr President, if you picked up the London Times tomorrow morning and learned that 1,000 people had broken down the doors… of the British Parliament and killed some (people) on the way in (to) deny the prime minister to take office,'” Biden said, according to a pool report.

Angela Merkel, Germany’s first female chancellor, was the leader attending the summit. Kohl died in 2017 and was chancellor for 16 years from 1982 to 1998, becoming known as the architect of German reunification after the Cold War.

Polls show US voters are increasingly concerned about Biden’s age. He would be 82 at the start of a second term and 86 at the end.

The White House played down the name mix-ups, pointing to the fact that Biden has met many world leaders over a long career as senator, then vice president and finally president.

“Elected officials, many people, they can misspeak sometimes,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at a briefing.

“This happens. It happens to all of us.”

Biden’s mix-up of dead and living leaders, however, is the second in the space of a few days.

At a campaign event in Las Vegas on Sunday, Biden was talking about French president Macron’s reaction to his 2020 election win over Trump at the summit.

“And Mitterrand from Germany — I mean, from France — looked at me and said, ‘You know, what — why — how long you back for?'” Biden said. A later White House transcript inserted the correct name, Macron, in brackets.

Mitterrand was French president from 1981 to 1995, and died in 1996.

Making matters worse, during a televised speech late Thursday, which Biden used in part to defend his memory, he referred to Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as the “president of Mexico.”

US voters seem less worried about the age of 77-year-old Trump, who is running for another White House term — but he has also made several slip-ups.

Trump recently mixed up his rival for the Republican nomination, Nikki Haley, with former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

Last year he said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was the leader of Turkey and warned that the United States was on the verge of “World War II,” which ended in 1945.

by Agence France-Presse