Biden mispronounces name of UK’s new prime minister in remarks on the leadership change

President Biden made yet another gaffe Monday evening while congratulating U.K.’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak. 

Speaking at a White House event, marking the festival of Diwali, Biden appeared to struggle with Sunak’s name. 

“[J]ust today we’ve gotten news that Rashee Soonak is now the prime minister. As my brother would say, ‘go figure,’” Biden said, eliciting laughter and applause from the audience. “And the Conservative Party. Expected to become the next prime minister – I think tomorrow – when he goes to see the King. Pretty astounding. A groundbreaking milestone.” 

The gaffe was overshadowed by Biden earlier wishing Vice President Kamala Harris a happy birthday while calling her a “great president.” 


“Happy Birthday to a great president, we know your mom is always with you,” President Biden said while acknowledging Harris’ birthday was on Oct. 20. 

Rishi Sunak became Britain’s third prime minister this year on Tuesday, taking office amid an economic crisis that has left the country’s finances in a precarious state and millions struggling to pay their food and energy bills.

Sunak, who is the U.K.’s first leader of color, met King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, where the monarch officially asked the new leader of the governing Conservative Party to form a government, as is tradition.

Sunak clinched the leadership position Monday, seen by his party as a safe pair of hands to stabilize an economy sliding toward recession — and stem its own plunging popularity, after the brief, disastrous term of Liz Truss.

Sunak — at 42 the youngest British leader in more than 200 years — acknowledged the scale of his challenge as well as the skepticism of a British public alarmed at the state of the economy and weary of a Conservative Party soap opera that has chewed through two prime ministers in as many months. 

“I fully appreciate how hard things are,” Sunak said outside the prime minister’s 10 Downing Street residence. “And I understand, too, that I have work to do to restore trust after all that has happened. All I can say is that I am not daunted.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

During a White House celebrating Diwali, President Biden stumbled when announcing the name of the U.K.’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

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