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6 Feb, 2024 08:06

Biden recalls recent meeting with long-dead French leader

The gaffe-prone US politician erroneously claimed having talked to Francois Mitterrand after being elected president
Biden recalls recent meeting with long-dead French leader

US President Joe Biden appeared to confuse French President Emmanuel Macron for the late Francois Mitterrand, when describing a 2021 G7 meeting at a campaign event on Sunday.

Speaking in Las Vegas, Biden recalled how shortly after being elected president he went to southern England to meet the heads of governments of six other prominent Western economies, whom he inaccurately called “all the NATO leaders.”

“I sat down and I said, ‘America is back.’ And Mitterrand, from Germany – I mean, from France – looked at me and said – said, ‘You know, what – why – how long you back for?’” Biden said.

Mitterrand served as president of France from 1981 to 1995 and died a year after leaving office, aged 79. The official White House transcript of Biden’s speech identifies the person he spoke with at the G7 event, which took place in Cornwall in June 2021, as Emmanuel Macron.

The incumbent US leader is notoriously gaffe-prone, with critics claiming such incidents are becoming more frequent, and citing them as evidence of the 81-year-old politician’s mental decline. During the same address on Sunday, he hailed a $3 billion project for a high-speed railway, set to link Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Biden said people would be able to travel “from here to Las Vegas” in two hours, before correcting himself.

Biden’s supporters have largely downplayed the concerns, while highlighting similar issues affecting ex-President Donald Trump, his presumed Republican challenger in the presidential race. There have been several instances where the 77-year-old appeared to slur his words during his campaign rallies, and he recently appeared to confuse his Republican rival Nikki Haley for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Though a Biden-Trump rematch in November is seen as almost inevitable, most American voters consider it a bad outcome. In a national UMass-Amherst poll earlier this month, more than half of respondents said they would rather not have to choose between the two at the ballot box. Among Democrats, 37% said it would be better if Biden did not seek a second term, while 29% of Republicans said the same about Trump.

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