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Biden confuses All Blacks rugby team with brutal police force

<i>Leon Neal/Getty Images</i><br/>President Joe Biden waves to members of the public who have gathered for his arrival on April 12
Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images
President Joe Biden waves to members of the public who have gathered for his arrival on April 12

By Sophie Tanno, CNN

President Joe Biden made a gaffe during his visit to Ireland on Wednesday as he confused a rugby team with a controversial 1920s-era British police force.

Biden was speaking at the Windsor Bar in Dundalk, Ireland, when he appeared to mistake New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team with the Black and Tans, a brutal force deployed against rebels during the Irish War of Independence.

The US president had been thanking his distant relative and former Irish rugby player Rob Kearney for gifting him the shamrock tie that he was wearing.

He received the Irish team tie after they won against New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago in November 2016. The victory marked Ireland’s victory over the legendary All Blacks for the first time in 111 years.

“See this tie I have, this shamrock tie?” Biden said.

“It was given to by one of these guys right here, who’s a hell of a rugby player who beat the hell out of the Black and Tans.”

He corrected himself before adding that he wore the tie “with great pride.”

The Black and Tans were officers recruited to bolster Royal Irish Constabulary numbers during the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence. Many of them gained a violent reputation.

White House official Amanda Sloat later defended Biden’s mishap, saying: “I think for everyone in Ireland who was a rugby fan, it was incredibly clear that the president was talking about the All Blacks and Ireland’s defeat of the New Zealand team.”

However, he did not avoid ridicule on social media, with Irish comedian Oliver Callan tweeting: “The greatest gift Ireland wanted from Joe Biden was a signature gaffe. And be the holies didn’t he just go and give us one for the century.”

Biden is a keen rugby fan and previously admitted to even playing the sport himself for a year in the mid 1970s. He personally called the Irish rugby union team to congratulate them when they defeated New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in 2021.

History of gaffes

Wednesday’s slip of the tongue marks the latest in a string of public mishaps made by the president, who once described himself as a “gaffe machine.”

Speaking at a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022, Biden tried to acknowledge the presence of Rep. Jackie Walorski — despite the fact that the Indiana Republican had died in a car accident in early August.

In April 2022, Biden confused audiences when he appeared to shake hands with thin air after delivering a speech in Greensboro, North Carolina. Footage of the incident went viral online.

Biden — who has Irish roots and has been touted as the most “Irish of Americans to sit in the Oval Office since John F. Kennedy” — has been trying to set the right tone during his four-day visit to Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The president, who is fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, has faced accusations of being “anti-British,” including from Sammy Wilson, a lawmaker from Northern Ireland’s largest pro-British party, the Democratic Unionist Party.

Earlier Wednesday, Sloat hit back at the accusations, telling reporters in Belfast: “The track record of the president shows that he’s not anti-British.

“President Biden obviously is a very proud Irish American. He is proud of those Irish roots. But he is also a strong supporter of our bilateral partnership with the UK.”

Biden arrived in Belfast late on Tuesday. He traveled south on Wednesday to the Irish Republic, where he is carrying out personal engagements including stops in County Louth and County Mayo to explore his family roots.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Ross Levitt contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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