Earlier today, Australians got a taste of what we here in America are routinely subjected to on a near-daily basis after a cringeworthy moment between President Joe Biden and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison was broadcast on a White House live feed as well as some Aussie and United Kingdom news outlets.
Biden held a virtual meeting with Morrison and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson where a “new enhanced trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States [AUKUS]” was announced.
Towards the closing of the meeting, Biden turned towards the screen that featured Johnson and thanked him by name for his and his country’s continued close alliance and strategic partnerships with the United States.
But it’s when Biden turned to Morrison to thank him as well that things got more than a bit awkward, to say the least. Instead of referring to Morrison by name, which is standard operating procedure during these things, a symbol of respect, Biden appeared to forget the Aussie PM’s name.
“Thank you, Boris. And I want to thank that fella down under. Thank you very much, pal. Appreciate it, Mr. Prime Minister,” Biden said to Morrison, smiling as he turned back to face the camera to finish the remainder of his prepared remarks.
At the announcement of a joint deal with the U.K. and Australia on advanced defense tech sharing, President Biden doesn't mention Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison by name, instead saying "I want to thank that fellow 'down under.' Thank you very much, pal." pic.twitter.com/4bakPVSdQ7
— Newsmax (@newsmax) September 15, 2021
If news outlets here in the U.S. (outside of maybe Fox News and the New York Post) have reported on this embarrassing moment, I haven’t seen it. Frankly, it would surprise me if they did, considering most of the time they’re in Protect the Precious mode. But most major Australian and UK media outlets not only reported on it, but they made the moment the focal point of their write-ups and tweets:
US President Joe Biden appeared to forget Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s name during this morning’s historic announcement of a new defence pact.
— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) September 15, 2021
Joe Biden calls Scott Morrison ‘that fella down under’ – video https://t.co/IpYxx4Cu0H
— The Guardian (@guardian) September 15, 2021
Joe Biden appeared to forget Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's name during a speech at the White House, calling him “the fella from Down Under”. https://t.co/2nEK61TaBD
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) September 15, 2021
US President Joe Biden has addressed Scott Morrison as “pal” and “that fellow down under” after appearing to forget the name of Australia’s national leader in a joint defence address.https://t.co/3Uip8z9I8F
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) September 15, 2021
‘Fellow down under’: Biden forgets Australian prime Minister's name at critical press conference https://t.co/IMRft7qayt
— Adam Creighton (@Adam_Creighton) September 15, 2021
Politico EU’s headline reads “‘That fellow from Down Under’ — Aussies cringe as Biden appears to forget PM’s name.”
In fairness, I should point out that about 10-15 seconds later Biden mentioned both Johnson and Morrison by name and title, but I suspect the teleprompter might have had a little something to do with that.
While Biden forgetting the name of a country’s leader as the world was watching was no laughing matter, what was rather humorous were some of the reactions I saw from random Aussies on Twitter, many of who joked that Biden at the very least should have used “mate” instead of “pal” to address Morrison while others quipped about how they wished they could forget their Prime Minister so easily, considering the draconian state of things in the land Down Under as we speak.