President Biden on Tuesday struggled to get through a short poem at a White House event Tuesday, reading it twice and managing to get it wrong both times.
The gaffe occurred during an event to honor the 12 recipients of the National Humanities medals, an award honoring individuals or organizations whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience.
Mr. Biden sought to honor one of the winners, poet Richard Blanco, by reading one of his works. The poem was written for the second inauguration of President Obama, whom Mr. Biden served as vice president.
“’And always one moon/ like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop/ and every window on..in..of every county…country.’ Let me start this over again,” Mr. Biden said, reading the poem from a teleprompter.
“I’m getting so intimidated by you being here,” the president told Mr. Blanco, a Spanish-born poet who lives in Maine.
However, Mr. Biden’s second attempt to read the poem didn’t go much better than the first.
“And always one moon/ like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop/ and every window of one country … county … county,” Mr. Biden said, again reading from the teleprompter.
The stumble was not the only awkward moment during the event. Mr. Biden at another point in the ceremony joked about the difficulty of putting the medals on women with long hair.
Noting that ribbons don’t separate from the medals, Mr. Biden said it would be difficult to put them on women.
“Any woman who I’m giving one medal to — please don’t get angry with me if I mess up your hair,” he joked.
The remark brought up uncomfortable memories of women during the 2020 presidential race who accused Mr. Biden of improper advances, including sniffing their hair. A former Nevada state assemblywoman and former Democrat aide have both accused the president of getting too close to their hair years ago.
Mr. Biden has denied their claims, insisting that he “never” acted inappropriately.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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