By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden mistakenly referred on Wednesday to a conversation he had with Angela Merkel in 2021 as having taken place with the late German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who died in 2017, his second such mix-up this week.
At a New York reception that raised money for his reelection bid, the 81-year-old Biden changed a story that is a staple of his stump speech to include Kohl instead of Merkel, who was in power at the time of the reported conversation, at the G7 summit in 2021.
The reference occurred when Biden was talking about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for this year’s Republican presidential nomination.
“When I first got elected president, I went to a G7 meeting with the seven heads of state in Europe and Great Britain. I sat down and I said, ‘Well, America’s back’ and the president of France looked at me and said, ‘For how long?’ I never thought of it this way,” Biden said.
“Then Helmut Kohl of Germany looked at me and said, ‘What would you say Mr. President, if you picked up the London Times tomorrow morning and learned that 1,000 people had broken down the doors, the doors of the British Parliament and killed some (people) on the way in,'” Biden said.
Asked about the incident, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that “as it relates to the names and what he was trying to say, many people, elected officials, many people, you know, they can misspeak sometimes.”
She listed several politicians who have misspoke similarly.
“It happens to all of us, it’s common,” she said.
She waved off a question about Biden’s overall health, saying his previous physical examinations had given him a clean bill of health and noted he would get another exam.
The mix-up came a day before Special Counsel Robert Hur said in a report that he opted against bringing criminal charges against Biden for taking classified documents, citing among mitigating factors the president’s “poor memory.”
In remarks to reporters after the release of the report on Thursday, Biden called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the leader of Mexico.
On Sunday, while talking about the 2021 G7 summit, Biden mixed up French President Emmanuel Macron with the late Francois Mitterrand, who was in power from 1981 to 1995 and died in 1996.
Trump, 77, has misidentified people as well, recently confusing Republican opponent Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who was speaker of the House of Representatives when he was in power.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons, Jonathan Oatis and Christian Schmollinger)