President Joe Biden wrapped up his first trip to Asia as president with a press conference in Vietnam that was marred by rambling answers, awkward jokes, and a nap request.
During Biden’s press conference on Sunday night, the event took an unexpected turn as he was mid-flow, responding to journalists’ questions. It was a peculiar moment, reminiscent of an excessively lengthy awards ceremony speech, when the President found himself quite literally “played off” the stage by the sudden onset of jazz music blaring from the loudspeaker.
“We talked about stability, we talked about the Third World, excuse me, the Southern Hemisphere has access to change. It wasn’t confrontational at all…” Biden, 80, began, his remarks meandering.
This unexpected turn of events was marked by the commanding voice of his press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, who interjected, “Thank you, everybody. This ends the press conference. Thanks, everyone,” swiftly bringing the press conference to an abrupt conclusion.
Meanwhile, Biden continued speaking, unaware that his microphone had been muted long ago.
Soothing jazz melodies began emanating from the loudspeakers while Biden appeared to persist in answering questions, his voice gradually drowned out by the rising music. As the tunes grew louder, Biden eventually put away his leather-backed folder and made his exit from the stage, disappearing behind a curtain.
Biden traveled to India and Vietnam for a series of meetings with leaders of the G20 and the Indo-Pacific region, with the goal of countering China’s growing influence and aggression.
But, his trip was overshadowed by the war in Ukraine, which has escalated in recent weeks as Russia invaded its neighbor.
The 80-year president spent much of his time and attention on the conflict, which he said was a global issue that threatened the international order.
Biden also made headlines for his remarks on Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as its own.
On Monday, Biden said that the US would respond militarily if China attacked Taiwan, which contradicted the longstanding US policy of “strategic ambiguity” that avoids taking a clear stance on the issue.
On Tuesday, he clarified that his policy had not changed, but did not retract his earlier statement. He said that he did not want to contain China, but to have a relationship that was “on the up and up.”
Biden’s press conference in Hanoi on Sunday was supposed to be the final act of his trip, but it turned into a spectacle of gaffes and blunders. Biden appeared tired and confused as he answered questions from reporters, often going off on tangents and making jokes that fell flat.
At one point, he said that he was going to bed after the press conference, which lasted 26 minutes. He also said that he was following his staff’s orders on whom to call on, and that he would not answer any “softballs.”
The 46th US President also repeated one of his favorite anecdotes about a John Wayne movie where an Indian character calls a Union soldier a “lying, dog-faced pony soldier.” He used this phrase to describe those who deny climate change.
Biden’s performance drew mockery and criticism from some observers, who questioned his mental fitness and leadership abilities. A video clip of Biden asking for a nap went viral on Twitter, with over 2 million views and thousands of comments.