On the defensive and appearing on edge after ceding the public relations advantage to Russian President Vladimir Putin at their historic summit, President Biden lashed out at the American press at the end of a short, 33-minute briefing.
Biden tried to wrap up his Q&A after fielding questions from just six journalists during an appearance that lasted around 30 minutes — about half the time that Putin spent during his own news conference earlier in Geneva, Switzerland.
But other reporters kept peppering him with questions as he walked off stage, including CNN’s Kaitlin Collins, who shouted out about Putin, “Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, Mr. President?”
“I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior! What the hell? What do you do all of the time? When did I say I was confident?” Biden shot back as he walked toward her with his finger in the air.
The 78-year-old president — who had earlier removed his suit jacket while standing in sunny, 88-degree heat — then walked back toward the lectern to continue his harangue.
“What I said was — let’s get this straight — I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacted to them and they diminished their standing in the world,” he said angrily.
“I’m not confident of anything, I’m just stating the facts.”
Biden erupted again when Collins followed up by noting how Putin had denied any involvement in cyberattacks against the US and downplayed Russia’s human rights violations, then asked Biden how their meeting could be considered constructive.
“If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business,” Biden shot back before storming off.
Before taking any questions, Biden acknowledged that his staff had told him ahead of time which reporters would get a crack.
“As usual, folks, they gave me a list of people I’m going to call on,” he said.
Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One a few minutes later, Biden apologized “for having been short” with Collins.
Biden blasting Collins came after he watched Putin’s bodyguards rough up American reporters during preliminary remarks before their high-stakes summit.
Both world leaders “appeared amused” by the spectacle of journalists being yelled at and pushed around, according to a pool reporter.
CNN’s chief national affairs correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, called Biden’s “flash of temper” and subsequent apology “classic Joe Biden in both respects,” noting that he’s done that “frequently.”
“But what we’ve not seen him do is answer questions like that without his aides screaming at him to stop,” Zeleny said during an afternoon appearance on the network.
“I have never seen a president, covering the last four of them, who is so protected by his aides in terms of often not wanting him to answer some question.”
Also during his news conference, Biden mischaracterized the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who clashed with supporters of then-President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a bid to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s win.
When asked to comment on Putin likening the federal prosecution of scores of rioters to his own crackdown on anti-government protests, Biden called it “a ridiculous comparison,” Biden said.
“It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through a cordon and go into the Capitol, kill a police officer and be held accountable than it is for people objecting and marching on the Capitol saying ‘You are not allowing me to speak freely. You are not allowing me to do A, B, C or D’,” Biden said.
Initial reports of Sicknick’s death falsely claimed it was the result of him being bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher, but an official autopsy later found the 43-year-old New Jersey native died after suffering a pair of strokes unrelated to the riot.
A Trump supporter, Ashli Babbitt, 36, was fatally shot by a police officer as she tried to climb through a busted-out window into the House Speaker’s Lobby during the riot and three others died as a result of medical emergencies.
At least two police officers and one alleged rioter also committed suicide afterward.
Biden also said he told Putin during their meeting “that certain critical infrastructure should be off-limits to attack, period, by cyber or any other means” and presented a list of “critical infrastructure under US policy, from the energy sector to our water systems.”“I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it,” Biden said.“He doesn’t know exactly what it is. But it’s significant. If, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond. Cyber. He knows: in a cyber way.”
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