Biden confuses Macron with dead French president Francois Mitterrand

At campaign event in Las Vegas US president tells anecdote, but fumbles name of his interlocutor and country he leads

US President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in North Las Vegas, Nev., February 4, 2024. (Stephanie Scarbrough/AP)
US President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in North Las Vegas, Nev., February 4, 2024. (Stephanie Scarbrough/AP)

WASHINGTON, United States — US President Joe Biden confused his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron with France’s long-dead former leader Francois Mitterrand, in a speech that went viral in video footage Monday.

Addressing a campaign event in Las Vegas on Sunday, the 81-year-old US leader described Macron’s reaction to a speech at a G7 meeting in 2020.

As well as getting Macron’s name wrong, he misstated the country he leads.

“And Mitterrand — Macron, from Germany — I mean, from France looked at me and said, said ‘You know, what — why — how long you back for?'” Biden said, according to a White House transcript.

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

Video of Biden’s mix-up has been viewed thousands of times on X, formerly Twitter, and shared hundreds of times.

Biden has made similar public mistakes in the past, notably in September 2022 when he called on a deceased congresswoman at a conference she helped organize.

“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? I think she was going to be here,” he said, referring to Indiana representative Jackie Walorski, who had died a month earlier.

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 18, 2024. (Thomas Padilla/AP)

And in April last year, a White House transcript corrected Biden when he confused New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team with the Black and Tans, a British military force notorious for its involvement in the Irish War of Independence.

The transcript of his speech, given in a pub in Ireland, crossed out “Black and Tans” and inserted “All Blacks.”

Then-French President Francois Mitterrand gives a press conference at the Elysee Palace, Paris, October 16, 1984. (William Stevens/AP)

Biden’s predecessor and probable opponent in the November presidential election, Donald Trump, made a similar gaffe last month, confusing his party rival Nikki Haley with former House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump, 77, had falsely said Haley was in charge of security during the violent assault on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, prompting her to question his mental fitness during a campaign speech.

Following Trump’s gaffe, Biden also took the opportunity to make a dig at his potential presidential rival.

“I don’t agree with Nikki Haley on everything, but we agree on this much: She is not Nancy Pelosi,” he had written in a post on X.

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