On Thursday, many members of the establishment media generously acknowledged President Joe Biden managed to speak to reporters for a whole, entire hour after putting off such an event for 65 days, the longest a president had done so in generations.
Biden indeed managed this feat, as well as quite a few relatively coherent answers to the carefully selected questions he seemed to be very well-prepared to answer.
However, even the friendliest of reporters and commentators couldn’t help but notice his many gaffes and mistruths, the odd reliance on notes, the cards directing him which reporters to respond to, and at least one viral moment in which he seemed to briefly completely forget what he was talking about and abandon an unfinished thought completely.
So it is rather surprising that the White House appears to have inaccurately quoted Biden in its transcript of the event after the POTUS mixed up the names of the president of Afghanistan and the former leader of the Pakistani military.
You’d think they’d be flying pretty low right now with all the friendly fire from the media, but no.
Apparently, editing out Biden’s embarrassing factual errors as the administration is being accused of a lack of transparency seemed like a good call to these people.
Biden gets name of Afghan president wrong — “Kayani” not Ghani. https://t.co/giyCM4txI4
— jessdonati (@jessdonati) March 25, 2021
“And General Austin is — just met with Kayani and I’m waiting for the briefing on that,” Biden said Thursday while discussing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, as heard in his comments on video.
“He is the — the ‘leader,’ quote, in Afghanistan and Kabul. And there’s a U.N.-led process that’s beginning shortly on how to mechanically get people — how to end this war,” the president continued.
The White House transcript, however, reads: “And General Austin is — just met with Ghani and I’m waiting for the briefing on that. He is the — the ‘leader,’ quote, in Afghanistan and Kabul.”
I gotta be honest. I’m actually surprised he remembered the name of any foreign official at all, considering he’s completely forgotten not only the name of the secretary of defense but what both his position and the Pentagon are even called.
All the same, this was still no small slip of the tongue, as Biden also seemed to be suggesting the man he meant to refer to, Ashraf Ghani, was not a legitimate leader.
Here’s where some particularly bitter irony comes into the suspiciously altered Biden gaffe, as Ghani happens to have won a fiercely contested presidential election last year.
His rival Abdullah Abdullah, as The New York Times reported, challenged the results of the election and even staged his own swearing-in ceremony on the same day as Ghani’s. However, Ghani has been recognized by the U.S. as the legitimate leader of the country.
Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, meanwhile, was once the “most powerful man in an unstable country” as he was described by Forbes in 2012. In spite of conflicts over drone strikes with the Obama-Biden administration, he was a close ally in the war on terror, and during his time in power, he was held accountable by his own supreme court for human rights abuses and political meddling. He left the Pakistani military in 2013.
I’ll be as kind as possible to Biden — he slipped up. Even if you’re not going to criticize him for this rather sensitive mix-up, however, what excuse is there for the White House to try to cover it up? Especially when the media event was widely broadcast and can be accessed in full from dozens of sources by anyone with an internet connection or a smartphone?
How can we now trust the White House to accurately transcribe anything the administration states without fact-checking it against video feeds with a fine-tooth comb? The alteration of a single word can alter or obscure the meaning of anything.
As of this writing, the transcript edit seems to have only been covered by Fox News. Yet one can only imagine the outcry if the Trump White House were to have edited a transcript to cover up for a falsity from the former president.
The reason the Biden White House thinks they can get away with scrubbing a news conference transcript of a touchy error is that they know they can get away with it, at the end of the day.
As much as the establishment media pushes the Biden admin, they’ll never push where it really matters — on the increasing number of dangerous precedents being set by this equal parts radical and opaque administration.
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