Tactile Biden reaches out to laughing Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni – months after saying her election win was bad for democracy, telling her: ‘I hope you’ll be nice to me’
- Biden welcomed Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to the White House
- He told stories of winning ‘man of the year’ award from Italian society
President Joe Biden reached out and touched Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in the Oval Office Thursday, buttering up his visitor with a decades old story about growing up with Italian-Americans.
‘I hope you’ll be nice to me,’ Biden said at the top of their meeting, after mentioning Italy’s role taking the helm of the G7 next year. Biden celebrated U.S.-Italy ties with the right wing leader who nevertheless joins the U.S. and European allies in opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden made a call to ‘deepen the economic connection’ between the two countries in areas such as space exploration.
He even gave her recognition of concerns about migration that the far right leader has made part of her persona. Meloni has called for a naval blockade amid a flood of African migrants seeking better prospects in southern Europe.
Biden mentioned Mediterranean nations and the ‘legitimate migration challenges you have coming from Africa.’
‘Be nice to me’: President Joe Biden welcomed Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to the White House. He told her that growing up he was embarrassed his name didn’t end with an ‘O’ but that an Italian society gave him an award
For her part, Meloni, 46, said she was ‘very pleased to be here’ and cited the ‘common values and cultural roots’ between the two countries. ‘We know who our friends are in times that are tough,’ she said.
‘I just want you to know, I was raised in a neighborhood where I was self-conscious my name didn’t end in “O”,’ Biden, 80, said.
And I want you to know I’m the only non-Italian named the man of the year by the Italian Society,’ he said, recounting the award. ‘I deserve this award,’ he said, after going through all the Italian names from his area, while his guest chuckled.
Biden praised Italy’s support for Ukraine during the Oval Office meeting
Biden told stories of growing up with Italian-Americans in Scranton
Meloni looks on, as she is welcomed by U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office
Biden fielded questions about his son Hunter at the end of the event
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy talked up his own Italian roots while welcoming Meloni
Meloni began her day at the Capitol, where she met with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
‘I may be Irish, but I’m not stupid. I married Dominic Giacoppa’s granddaughter,’ he said. ‘I want you to know that, okay? Be nice to me.
The warm encounter came just months after Biden in comments at a fundraiser appeared to cite the Italian elections that brought Meloni to power as a warning sign.
He said China had been arguing that democracies can’t be sustained in the 21st century,’ then told his guests: ‘You just saw what’s happened in Italy in that election.’
Now, Italy’s support for NATO’s effort to arm and boost Ukraine in its war against Russia is keeping Italy within the fold.
Earlier, she met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who talked up his own Italian-American roots. His mother Roberta’s maiden name is Palladino.