President Joe Biden on Monday claimed that three major gaffes heard ’round the world during his European trip never happened, and he carried with him a cheat sheet to ensure he stayed on message.
On Saturday, Biden had closed a speech in Poland by declaring, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” in reference to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The White House quickly walked back the apparent call for regime change in Russia.
That inflammatory remark, which even the liberal Washington Post said “sparked a global uproar,” came a day after Biden, when meeting with U.S. troops in Poland, implied they would soon see Ukraine firsthand. That too brought an immediate clarification from the White House.
On Thursday, Biden had said that if Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine, the U.S. would respond “in kind,” triggering worldwide speculation that he meant a chemical attack.
During his campaign, as noted by the Post, Biden often pointedly chided then-President Donald Trump over his comments, saying “The words of a president matter. They can move markets. They can send our brave men and women to war. They can bring peace.”
But when answering questions from reporters on Monday, Biden tried to disavow what he said while explaining what he meant.
The effort to douse the global firestorm of concern the president created by implying the U.S. wanted to oust Putin was assisted by a cue card Biden held, according to Fox News.
— New York Post (@nypost) March 28, 2022
“If you weren’t advocating for regime change, what did you mean? Can you clarify?” the anticipated question said on the card.
“I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the actions of this man,” the spoon-fed answer read. “I was not advocating a change in policy.”
Biden had to have “I was not articulating a change in policy” written verbatim on a notecard so he wouldn’t screw it up… and he still screwed it up pic.twitter.com/OvEwlHQVry
— Jake Schneider (@jacobkschneider) March 28, 2022
Biden tried to keep the script during the event in the State Dining room of the White House, according to the official transcript.
Kelly O’Donnell of NBC News asked him, “Do you believe what you said — that Putin can’t remain in power? Or do you now regret saying that? Because your government has been trying to walk that back.”
“I’m not walking anything back,” the president responded. “The fact of the matter is I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing, and the actions of this man — just — just the brutality of it. Half the children in Ukraine. I had just come from being with those families.
“And so — but I want to make it clear: I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it.”
After insisting his words complicated nothing, the president was asked by Steve Holland of Reuters if he wanted Putin removed, calling for a cue-card-driven response.
“I was expressing the moral outrage I felt towards this man. I wasn’t articulating a policy change,” Biden said.
After insisting again he was expressing outrage, he offered a different response.
“I was talking to the Russian people,” he said. “The last part of the speech was talking to the Russian people, telling them what we thought. And I was communicating this to not only the Russian people but the whole world.”
Peter Doocy of Fox News then tried to press home the point about Biden’s gaffes.
“Are you worried that other leaders in the world are going to start to doubt that America is back if some of these big things that you say on the world stage keep getting walked back?” he said.
“What’s getting walked back?” Biden replied.
After Doocy summarized the gaffes, the president said, “None of the three occurred.”
Doocy then tried to find out what Biden meant when he told troops of the 82nd Airborne that would see for themselves what Ukraine was like.
“You interpret the language that way. I was talking to the troops. We were talking about helping train the troops in — that are — the Ukrainian troops that are in Poland. That’s what the context. I sat there with those guys for a couple hours. That’s what we talked about,” the president said.
“And when you said a chemical weapon use by Russia would ‘trigger a response in kind’?” Doocy asked.
“It will trigger a significant response,” Biden said.
“What does that mean?” the reporter asked.
“I’m not going to tell you. Why would I tell you? You got to be silly,” the president said.
“The world wants to know,” Doocy replied.
“The world wants to know a lot of things,” Biden said. “I’m not telling them what the response would be. Then Russia knows the response.”