WASHINGTON, DC – He first dubbed the British prime minister « Rashee Sanook. » Now Joe Biden has bestowed a whole new job title on Rishi Sunak that doesn’t actually exist in the UK
On Thursday, welcoming the British premier to the White House for the first time, Biden immediately mixed up his honorifics, mistakenly addressing Sunak as « Mr. President. » The British prime minister smiled politely as Biden was quickly forced to correct himself.
« Mister President? » Biden continued. “I’m just promoting you! Prime Minister, it’s great to have you back. »
British constitutional pundits are likely to resent the correction as much as the gaffe itself, given that prime ministers are not considered to be the youngest presidents. The leader of Great Britain is, historically, the « first », or first and foremost of the king’s ministers, also known as the first among equals.
Despite Biden’s faux pas, the two men seemed relaxed in each other’s company as they met on Sunak’s second full day in the US capital.
Journalists were invited to watch the first 10 minutes of their discussion in the Oval Office, during which the two discussed the « brutal invasion » of Ukraine and the AI revolution sweeping the world.
They then talked together privately for more than an hour, including 40 minutes one-on-one.
Biden gave reporters the thumbs-up as he declared the so-called ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the US was ‘in really good shape’.
« Together, we are providing economic and humanitarian aid and security systems to Ukraine in their fight against a brutal invasion from Russia, » Biden said. « The global economy is undergoing the greatest transformation since the industrial revolution. »
Before getting down to business, the two men joked about some of their more distinctive predecessors.
After Biden mentions former Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s legendary wartime stay at the White House, when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have prevented the then prime minister from entering her husband Franklin’s bedroom at 3 a.m. Sunak joked: « Sir, don’t worry – you won’t see me there, bothering you and the first lady.
The British prime minister added: « It’s disheartening to think of the conversations our predecessors had in this room when they had to talk about wars they fought together, peace they won together, incredible changes in the lives of our citizens. »