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 have done so far,” Biden said at the end of his remarks.
Yoon, standing next to Biden, did not visibly react to the gaffe, which appeared to be an impromptu conclusion to a speech Biden read on a teleprompter. The US president had twice called Yoon by her correct name earlier in the speech.
In an ironic twist, the slip came almost exactly a year after Biden mistakenly referred to Moon as South Korea’s “prime minister” instead of “president” during a White House Medal of Honor ceremony. in honor of Korean War veteran Ralph Puckett Jr.
“The people of the Republic of Korea have not forgotten, as evidenced by the fact that the Korean Prime Minister is here for this ceremony,” Biden said on March 21 last year, referring to Moon.
The president turns 80 in November and is routinely accused by Republicans of being mentally declining, but he too has had a propensity for mistakes for decades and has attributed some of his speech stumbles to a stutter he outgrew in childhood.
Biden had trouble multiple times with names this week.
On Monday, he referred to Buffalo mass shooting hero Aaron Salter Jr., the grocery store guard and former police officer who died trying to stop the massacre, by the last name “Slater.”
Biden struggled Tuesday to say “AANHPI” during remarks about Asian American history month. The acronym recently replaced “AAPI” as the more politically correct way to refer 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—yes yes yes yes yes.”
On Thursday, Biden used two different pronunciations of Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s last name during Rose Garden remarks on Sweden and Finland’s requests to join NATO.
Last month, Biden told an event with teachers in the White House East Room that he marks drafts of his speeches to ensure they are delivered correctly, and compared his childhood stutter to Britain’s King George VI’s speech impediment, detailed in the film 2010’s “The King’s Speech.”
“The guy who wrote ‘The King’s Speech’ found the original speech, made a copy and sent it to me, not, I mean, from the movie. And he makes his speeches exactly like I did,” Biden said, adding, “If you took a look at my speech, you’ll see there are all these markings on the speech.”
President Donald Trump campaigned against Biden in 2020 by dubbing him “Sleepy Joe” and claiming he was mentally “shot.” That perception has carried over into current national and even international politics. Last month, a Saudi television station aired a comedy skit of a bumbling Biden who mixes up names and falls asleep.
But Biden is not alone in failing names. Former President George W. Bush, 75, accidentally condemned this week the “brutal and totally unwarranted invasion of Iraq,” which he launched in 2003, when he meant Ukraine. And Trump, also 75, this month confused the name of the Republican candidate for Ohio Senate that he supported, referring to his pick JD Vance as “JP, right? JD Mandel”.