President Biden’s first trip to Asia got off to a rocky start Friday when he called South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol by his predecessor’s name at a Samsung microchip facility.
Biden quickly corrected himself after addressing Yoon as “Moon,” an apparent reference to former Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose five-year term ended earlier this month.
“Thank you all very much and President Moon — Yoon, thank you for everything you’ve done so far,” Biden said at the end of his remarks.
Yoon, standing next to Biden, did not visibly react to the gaffe, which seemed to be an ad-libbed conclusion to a speech that Biden read from a teleprompter. The American president had twice called Yoon by his correct name earlier in the speech.
The president turns 80 in November and Republicans routinely accuse him of being in mental decline, but he’s also had a decades-long propensity for gaffes and has attributed some of his speaking stumbles to a stutter that he overcame in childhood.
Biden struggled on multiple occasions with names this week.
On Monday, he referred to Buffalo mass shooting hero Aaron Salter Jr. — the grocery store guard and ex-cop who died trying to stop the massacre — by the surname “Slater.”
Biden struggled Tuesday to say “AANHPI” during remarks on Asian-American history month. The acronym recently replaced “AAPI” as the most politically correct way of referring to people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent by also incorporating the letters “NH” for Native Hawaiians.
The official White House transcript quoted Biden as saying, “AAN- — NH — PI — aye, aye, aye, aye, aye.”
On Thursday, Biden used two different pronunciations of Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s last name during Rose Garden remarks about Sweden and Finland’s applications to join NATO.
Last month, Biden said at an event with teachers in the White House East Room that he marks up drafts of his speeches to ensure he delivers them properly and compared his childhood stutter to British King George VI’s speaking impediment, detailed in the 2010 film “The King’s Speech.”
“The guy who wrote ‘The King’s Speech’ found the original speech and made a copy of it and sent it to me — no, I mean, from the movie. And he does his speeches exactly like I did,” Biden said, adding, “If you took a look at my speech, you’ll see that there’s all these slash marks in the speech.”
President Donald Trump campaigned against Biden in 2020 by nicknaming him “Sleepy Joe” and claiming he was mentally “shot.” That perception has carried into present-day domestic and even international politics. A Saudi TV station last month aired a comedy skit of a bumbling Biden mixing up names and falling asleep.
But Biden is hardly alone in flubbing names. Former President George W. Bush, 75, this week accidentally condemned the “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq” — which he launched in 2003 — when he meant to say Ukraine. And Trump, also 75, this month mixed up the name of the Ohio Republican Senate candidate he endorsed, referring to his pick JD Vance as “JP, right? JD Mandel.”