Feb 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden confuses European leaders with dead predecessors twice in a week

Joe Biden

Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House on Feb. 7. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden twice confused former German Chancellors Angela Merkel and Helmut Kohl while telling an anecdote at campaign events Wednesday.

Why it matters: Biden's mixup of the German leaders came days after another flub confusing French President Emmanuel Macron with former French President François Mitterrand.

  • Biden's verbal gaffes during public events and speeches have provided fodder for Republican attacks on his mental fitness and age.
  • Polls show that concerns about the 81-year-old president's age and mental acuity are also registering with voters.

Driving the news: Biden attended two campaign receptions in New York City Wednesday, during which he told the crowd a story about speaking to European leaders at a G7 meeting in 2021 about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, NBC News reported.

  • "And then Helmut Kohl turned to me and said, 'What would you say, Mr. President, if you picked up the London Times and learned that 1,000 people had broken down the doors of the British parliament, killed some bobbies on the way in, to deny the prime minister to take office," Biden said, per Bloomberg.
  • Kohl had died four years earlier, in 2017. Merkel attended the summit in 2021.
  • The White House and Biden campaign did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.
  • The blunders come ahead of Biden's slated bilateral meeting with current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday.

The big picture: Biden also mixed up Macron with Mitterrand at a campaign rally in Las Vegas on Sunday, Politico reported.

  • While telling another story about the 2021 G7 summit, Biden said he had gone to the summit and spoken with Mitterrand — who died in 1996.
  • The latest gaffes add to a series of high-profile flubs by Biden, including referring to Ukrainians as "Iranians" during the 2022 State of the Union.

Of note: Former President Trump, who has frequently mocked Biden's mental acuity, has his own history of verbal gaffes.

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