President Joe Biden appeared to leave the United Nations stage without shaking the hand of his Brazilian counterpart, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva—better known as “Lula”—on Wednesday, in the latest gaffe involving the Democrat.
At the end of a speech on workers’ rights at the New York event—the U.N. General Assembly—Biden can be seen shaking hands with International Labor Organization Director-General Gilbert Houngbo, who took to the podium after the two leaders, waving at the audience, and then walking off the stage.
Footage from the event then shows a visibly irritated Lula, who after shaking Houngbo’s hand looked at Biden and, seeing him walking off the stage, turned away making a swiping gesture with his arm.
It’s far from the first time the 46th president has been involved in an embarrassing public blunder, having once admitted to being “a gaffe machine.” The series of gaffes and misstatements involving Biden go back to the time before he was even president and have accumulated in the decades he has spent in the public eye.
Biden’s opponents have used these and other episodes to fuel a damaging narrative about the 80-year-old’s purported cognitive issues, but independent fact-checkers have often found these claims to be misleading, as previously reported by Newsweek.
In December 2018, Biden identified his tendency to put himself into awkward situations as one of the potential liabilities during his 2020 campaign against Donald Trump. “But my God what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth,” he then told reporters.
Newsweek contacted the White House and Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment on Thursday.
Despite this blunder, Biden and Lula—who shook hands for reporters in New York on at least one occasion—found agreement on big issues impacting Washington and Brasilia, and talked of strengthening the relationship between the two countries.
“This meeting here, for me, is more than a bilateral meeting,” said Lula. “It is the rebirth of a new era in the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil. It is a relationship of equals.” Lula’s predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, had a fractious relation with Biden.
On the topic of workers’ rights, which was central in their meeting, Lula said: “There’s no democracy without strong trade unions.” The two leaders announced a new partnership on supporting labor, fighting forced and child labor as well as workers’ exploitation and making sure that the green transition doesn’t leave workers behind.
“The two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere are standing up for human rights around the world and the hemisphere, and that includes workers’ rights,” Biden said.
The U.S. president is currently navigating a massive strike in the auto industry—the UAW strike—as well as ongoing action from screenwriters impacting both the cinema and the TV industry. Despite his support for the trade union, he has recently declined a request from UAW leaders to join the picket line.