Biden calls Australian PM ‘that fella Down Under,’ prompts ridicule for apparently forgetting Scott Morrison’s name at key event
The blunder came as Biden announced a trilateral security alliance with Britain and Australia, known as AUKUS. The partnership will involve the sharing of technology that is expected to help Australia build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
During the virtual three-way press conference on Wednesday, Biden first thanked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson by name before pointing towards the TV screen on which Morrison was appearing via video link and apparently fumbling for his name.
“And I want to thank that, uh, fella Down Under. Thank you very much, pal,” Biden said after a moment’s hesitation before adding, “Appreciate it, Mr. Prime Minister.”
Morrison, who later described the alliance as a “forever partnership for a new time between the oldest and most trusted of friends,” could only smile and give Biden a thumbs up.
#ThatFellaDownUnder becomes the top trending hashtag on Australian Twitter after U.S President Joe Biden used the words during a virtual press conference with Australian & UK PM to unveil a new security partnership that will include nuclear-powered submarines. pic.twitter.com/EFVeS60J2G— SodusTrends (@sodustrends) September 16, 2021
However, Biden got it right moments later, apparently with the help of a teleprompter, when he thanked “Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Johnson” for helping “launch a new phase of the trilateral security cooperation among our countries.”
Although the 78-year-old president’s penchant for public gaffes and apparent senior moments are well known to American audiences, this latest reported misstep led to Australian social media users furiously debating whether it was a memory slip or possibly a term of endearment.
The hashtag #ThatFellaDownUnder began trending as people ridiculed both Morrison and Biden, with one person likening the episode to “running into someone in the pub whose name you can’t remember” and calling them “Maate.”
Several commenters said Morrison’s new moniker was more likely to stick than previous nicknames like “Scotty from Marketing,” referring to his time as a marketing executive. Meanwhile, others riffed on the lyrics of the 1980 song ‘Down Under’ by Australian rock group Men at Work to reference the gaffe.
A number of people referred to previous instances of US officials failing to recollect Australian leaders’ names. In 2017, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer twice called Morrison’s predecessor Malcolm Turnbull “Malcolm Trumble” during a press conference, while President Jimmy Carter had incorrectly addressed former Australian PM Malcolm Fraser as “John” in 1977.
Biden thanking "the ... uh ... fella from Down Under"Is up there with Trump's Press Secretary calling Malcom T "Trumbull"And Jimmy Carter calling the other PM Malcolm 'My friend, John Fraser'...#SuchACloseRelationshiphttps://t.co/9oSQ2fTESm— Graeme Orr (@Graeme_Orr) September 16, 2021
And as @tonyowright reminded last week, in 1977 Jimmy Carter called Malcolm Fraser "John" (which was actually Fraser's real first name, but clearly they hadn't bothered to check what he was actually known as) #AUKUShttps://t.co/QxCWxRALYIpic.twitter.com/747aPGWwrx— Neil McMahon (@NeilMcMahon) September 15, 2021
Others noted that Biden was not the first world leader who needed help remembering Morrison’s name, pointing to a 2018 episode when German Chancellor Angela Merkel was photographed flipping through crib notes on the prime minister during a meeting at a G20 summit.
Angela Merkel innocently reading Morrison’s profile while he’s sitting right beside her screams ‘insignificant’. Not to mention him guzzling on a beer bottle, bogan style, with the polished World leaders at Cornwall summit. pic.twitter.com/QwrYMh3l8W— Lel (@lel0601) September 16, 2021
While most Australian commenters were quick to forgive Biden on account of Morrison being “very forgettable” and of “international irrelevance,” American social media users expressed embarrassment about the mistake and pointed to the president’s previous gaffes.
Anything beyond remembering the deal was with the UK AND Australia was a bonus.— Charlie (@charlietech) September 15, 2021
During a visit to Hurricane Ida-battered New Jersey earlier this month, Biden drew ridicule after telling reporters that tornados aren’t called that anymore and suggested that extreme climate change was responsible for the weather phenomena in Nevada and Iowa.Also on rt.com Is it ‘tornadx’ now? In his latest gaffe, Biden says ‘they don’t call ‘em tornados anymore’ during climate-change speech
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