President Joe Biden suffered two embarrassing gaffes in just over 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday, when he seemed to forget to shake the hand of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, then appeared to misname the Congressional Hispanic Caucus at a gala dinner.
On Wednesday afternoon, Biden and da Silva spoke to reporters at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, after a speech from the U.S. president, along with International Labor Organization Director-General Gilbert Houngbo. At the end, Biden and Houngbo shook hands, followed by Houngbo and da Silva, after which the American leader walked off stage leaving his Brazilian counterpart looking irritated.
Republicans have been focusing heavily on the gaffes of 80-year-old Biden, who is seeking a second term in November 2024, arguing that he lacks the mental acumen to complete another four years in the White House. A recent CBS/YouGov poll found only 34 percent of American voters think Biden will serve a full second term if re-elected, versus 55 percent for Donald Trump, the current Republican frontrunner.
On Thursday evening, Biden addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 46th Annual Gala, where he accused Republicans of “undermining our border security today, blocking bipartisan reform” and boasted about the number of Hispanics in his government.
The president paid tribute to Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, who had just been given an award before appearing to get his audience mixed up.
He said: “I know Sister Norma lives the lessons nuns taught me growing up. Lessons based on the Gospel of Matthew: feed the hungry, care for the sick, welcome strangers. They echo what my dad taught me, and I mean this sincerely, my dad used to say, ‘Everyone, everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.'”
Biden continued “the Congressional Black Caucus embodies all those values,” before carrying on with his speech and seeming not to recognize his apparent mistake.
Speaking at Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, on the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Biden claimed he was at the World Trade Center ruins the day after the towers collapsed, despite there being no records of him being in New York at all that day.
He said: “Ground Zero in New York, I remember standing there the next day, and looking at the building. And I felt like I was looking through the gates of hell. It looked so devastating because of the way from where you could stand.”
There is no record of Biden being at Ground Zero on September 12, 2001, when he gave a speech to Congress. When contacted by Newsweek, a White House spokesperson confirmed Biden had visited the site as part of a Senate delegation on September 20, but made no comment about September 12.
In October 2022, Biden incorrectly described himself as the father of a man who “lost his life in Iraq,” in an apparent reference to his eldest son Beau Miden who did serve in the country, but actually died of cancer in Maryland.