Web Stories Tuesday, June 25

WASHINGTON — President Biden lambasted the White House press corps Thursday — complaining that reporters “never keep the deal” when a journalist asked a second question at a joint press conference with Kenyan President William Ruto.

The 81-year-old Biden repeatedly flashed confusion and irritation at the 32-minute event and mistakenly referred to his vice president as “President Kamala Harris” — making the error for at least the 8th time — before trying to bar the reporter’s second query.

“Thank you, Mr. President. Two questions, if I may,” began the McClatchy newspaper chain’s chief Washington correspondent Michael Wilner, one of two US journalists selected to ask questions — along with two Kenyan reporters — of both Biden and Ruto at the so-called “2:2” press conference.

“No, one!” Biden replied — in what his chuckling audience initially assumed to be a joke.

Wilner asked first about US-supported peacekeeping efforts in Haiti, to which Kenya is contributing troops — a widely anticipated topic — before attempting to ask his second question about a pending arrest warrant application against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, filed Monday by International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan.

“And on Israel,” Wilner began before Biden cut him off.

“One question. I’ll answer your question,” the president said, before reading a scripted reply on Haiti.

The White House press office generally has some idea of what a journalist will ask — either due to their recent history of questions at briefings and gaggles or because press officers ask, sometimes slyly, about topics a reporter under consideration is interested in that day.

When Wilner —who frequently covers topics related to Haiti due to interest among readers of the Miami Herald, one of McClatchy’s biggest titles — was given time to ask his question of Ruto, he politely defied Biden’s restriction and went ahead and asked his second question.

“I do very briefly have a question,” Wilner calmly proceeded, “on whether the United States has any evidence at all that would substantiate the ICC prosecutor’s specific allegations against Israeli leaders that they are using starvation as a tactic of war in Gaza — or exculpatory evidence, for that matter.”

Wilner asked Biden “if you would commit to releasing that information before any potential issuance of ICC arrest warrants?”

“Look, we made my position known on ICC. You guys never keep the deal — but that’s OK,” Biden said in a displeased tone.

“You know, we’ve made our position clear on the ICC,” he added. “We don’t think — we don’t recognize the jurisdiction, ICC, the way it’s been exercised. And it’s that simple. We don’t think there’s an equivalence between what Israel did and what Hamas did.”

Biden’s performance at the press conference drew immediate attention for other reasons, including his apparent confusion at multiple points, such as when he made reference in his opening remarks to “our nation’s first black vice president, President Kamala Harris.”

In response to the first Kenyan reporter’s question, regarding the US decision not to send its own troops to Haiti, Biden appeared to claim that American troops were serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa.

“We’re kind of occupied around the world, but we’re also engaged in Congo, in the neighborhood, and you know, we’ll continue to help mitigate human suffering there,” Biden said — though no such deployment is publicly known.

Moments later, Biden lost his train of thought.

“What was my question?” Biden asked the second American reporter, The Grio’s April Ryan, who had queried him about efforts to crush a powerful Haitian gang.

Before the fourth reporter at the “2:2” presser was selected, America’s oldest-ever president asked Ruto, “That it?”

Biden’s latest stumbles came as an overwhelming majority of voters say he’s too old to serve another four-year term ahead of his Nov. 5 rematch against former President Donald Trump, 77. Biden would be 86 if he completes a full second term in January 2029.

A New York Times/Siena College poll released in March found 73% of registered voters believe Biden is “too old to be an effective president” — while just 42% said the same of Trump.

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