Closing out his week-long European trip and Wednesday’s Geneva summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Joe Biden snapped at CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Wednesday for simply wondering “why” he’s “so confident [Putin will] change his behavior.”
Not to be left out, Biden also tussled with Fox’s Peter Doocy over China when he, like Collins, interjected once Biden worked through his list of six pre-approved reporters.
With Biden talking off-stage and his suit coat in hand, Collins shouted: “Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, President Biden?”
Biden suddenly became inflamed and yelled: “I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior. What the hell? What do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident?”
Undeterred, Collins added that she was alluding to Biden’s claim that he’ll need “six months” in order “to determine” whether Russia has improved its behavior, but that wasn’t enough for the President.
Collins again didn’t budge, so Biden concluded with another verbal grenade about how she’s “in the wrong business” (click “expand”):
BIDEN: I said — I said — what I said was — let’s get it straight. I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and they diminish their standing in the world. I'm not confident of anything. I'm just stating a fact.
COLLINS: But given his past has not changed and in that press conference sitting down with you for several hours, he denied any involvement in cyberattacks, he downplayed human rights abuses, he even refused to say Alexi Navaly’s name. So, how does that account to a constructive meeting as President? President Putin —
BIDEN: If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business.
Afterward, Biden spoke with a handful of reporters who were at that press conference and, while Collins didn’t appear to have been present, Biden apologized “for having been short with her” when the journalism profession consists of “the brightest people in the country.”
However, Biden only did so in context of trashing reporters for being so “negative,” “never ask[ing] a positive question,” and possessing “a negative view of life.”
But since Biden apologized, all was forgiven and democracy had not, in fact, died a little on Wednesday. In other words, there was no need for the comfort animals at CNN (or at least at the houses of Jim Acosta and Brian Stelter).
Doocy was another one of the four reporters that grabbed Biden’s attention after he finished going through his staff’s pre-approved list and, once he did, he brought up the importance of standing up to China (click “expand”):
DOOCY: In the spirit, Mr. President, of you saying there is no substitute for face to face dialogue and also with what you said at NATO that the biggest problems right now are Russia and China, you’ve spoken many times about how you have spent perhaps more time with President Xi than any other world leader, so is there going to be a time where you might call him, old friend to old friend and ask him to open up China to the World Health Organization investigators who are going to try to get the bottom of COVID-19?
BIDEN: Let’s get something straight. We know each other well. We’re not old friends. It’s just pure business.
DOOCY: I guess my question would be you’ve said you were going to press China, you signed onto the G7 communiqué that said the G7 were calling on China to open up, to let the investigators in. But China basically says they don’t want to be interfered with anymore. So what happens now?
BIDEN: The impact, the world’s attitude towards China as it develops. China is trying very hard to project itself as a responsible and very, very forthcoming nation that they are trying very hard to talk about how they're taking and helping the world in terms of COVID-19 and vaccines. And they're trying very hard. Look, certain things you don't have to explain to the people of the world. They see the results. Is China really actually trying to get to the bottom of this? One thing we did discuss, as I told you, and the EU and at the G7 and with NATO, what we should be doing and what I'm going to make an effort to do, is rally the world to work on what is going to be the physical mechanism available to detect early on the next pandemic and have a mechanism by which we can respond to it and respond to it early. It's going to happen. It's going to happen. And we need to do that.
Along with Collins and Doocy, ABC’s Cecilia Vega and one other reporter spoke up and got Biden to answer questions.
Before that, the following reporters were given preapproval to ask the elderly Biden relatively benign and/or unobjectionable questions (presented in order): AP’s Jonathan Lemire, New York Times’s David Sanger, Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs, PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor, Reuters’s Steve Holland, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty’s Igor Sevryugin.
To see the transcript of the questions from the preapproved reporters, click “expand.”
Biden press conference
June 16, 2021
1:31 p.m. Eastern
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I’ll take your questions. And as usual, folks, they gave me a list of the people I'm going to call on. So Jonathan, Associated Press.
JONATHAN LEMIRE: Thank you, sir. U.S. intelligence has said that Russia tried to interfere in the last two presidential elections and that Russia groups are behind hacks like Solarwinds and some of the ransomware attacks you just mentioned. Putin, in his news conference just now, accepted no responsibility for any misbehavior. Your predecessor opted not to demand that Putin stop these destructions. So, what is something concrete, sir, that you achieved today to prevent that from happening again and what were consequences that you threatened?
1:33 p.m. Eastern
LEMIRE: Mr. President, just a quick follow-up on the same theme of consequences. You said just now that you spoke a lot to him about human right. What would you say happens if opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies?
1:36 p.m. Eastern
DAVID SANGER: Thank you, Mr. President. In the runup to this discussion, there's been a lot of talk about the two countries spilling down into a — into a Cold War. And I'm wondering if there was anything that you emerged from in the discussion that made you think that he —
BIDEN: With your permission, I'm going to take my coat off, the sun is hot.
SANGER: — anything that would make you think that Mr. Putin has decided to move away from his fundamental role as a disrupter, particularly a disrupter of NATO and the United States? And if I could also just follow up on your description of how he gave him a list of critical infrastructure in the United States. Did you lay out very clearly what it was that the penalty would be for interfering in that critical infrastructure? Did you leave that vague? Did he respond in any way to it?
1:39 p.m. Eastern
JENNIFER JACOBS: Is there a particular reason why the summit lasted only about three hours? We know you had maybe allotted four to five hours? Was there any reason it ran shorter? Also, did — President Putin said that there were no threats or scare tactics issued. Do you agree with that assessment that there were no threats or scare tactics?
JACOBS: And also did you touch on Afghanistan and the safe withdrawal of troops?
1:41 p.m. Eastern
JACOBS: There were no threats?
1:42 p.m. Eastern
JACOBS: Did you ask about [INAUDIBLE]
1:43 p.m. Eastern
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Did — you say that you didn't issue any threats. Were there any ultimatums made when it comes to ransomware? And how will you measure success, especially when it comes to these working groups on — on Russian security and cyber security?
1:45 p.m. Eastern
ALCINDOR: When Mr. Putin was questioned today about human rights, he said the reason why he's cracking down on opposition leaders is because he doesn't want something like January 6th to happen in Russia. And he also says he doesn't want to see groups like Black Lives Matter form. What's your response to that, please?
1:45 p.m. Eastern
STEVE HOLLAND: President — sorry — President Putin said he was satisfied with the answer you — he — comment about him being a killer. Can you give us your side on this? What did you tell him?
BIDEN: He's satisfied. Why would I bring it up again?
HOLLAND: Now that you’ve talked to him, do you believe you can trust him?
1:46 p.m. Eastern
IGOR SEVRYUGIN [Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty]: So, I think you know attacks on civil society and the — the free press continue inside of Russia.
SEVRYUGIN: For example, Radio Free Europe —
SEVRYUGIN: — Radio Free Liberty, Voice of America, Current Times, where I work, branded foreign agents and several other independent media, so we are essentially being forced out in Russia, 30 years after President Yeltsin invited us in. My question is, after your talks with President Putin, how interested do you think he is in improving the media climate in Russia?