Biden's Cannibal Claim Offends an Ally

Papua New Guinea's PM not a fan of associating his country with cannibalism
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 23, 2024 12:47 PM CDT
Biden's Cannibal Claim Offends an Ally
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape, left, listens during a meeting with Pacific Islands Forum leaders during the US-Pacific Islands Forum Summit in the East Room of the White House, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The leader of Papua New Guinea has accused President Biden of disparaging the South Pacific island nation by implying that an uncle of the US president had been eaten by "cannibals" there during World War II. The president spoke at a Pennsylvania war memorial last week about his Army Air Corps aviator uncle Second Lt. Ambrose J. Finnegan Jr., whom he said was shot down over Papua New Guinea, which was a theater of heavy fighting, per the AP. "They never found the body because there used to be—there were a lot of cannibals for real in that part of New Guinea," Biden said, referring to the country's main island.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape said Biden "appeared to imply his uncle was eaten by cannibals." "President Biden's remarks may have been a slip of the tongue; however, my country does not deserve to be labeled as such," Marape said. "World War II was not the doing of my people; however, they were needlessly dragged into a conflict that was not their doing." White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was speaking to the bravery of his uncle and the many US service members who put their lives on the line. "He takes this very seriously. His uncle, who served and protected this country, lost his life serving. And that should matter," she said.

Biden's account that Finnegan's plane was shot down was not supported by military records. Finnegan was a passenger on a Douglas A-20 Havoc transport plane that crashed into the ocean after both engines failed on May 14, 1944, according to a Pentagon report. One crew member survived but no trace was found of the plane or three other people on board. Biden's comments offended a key strategic ally as China moves to increase its influence in the region. Marape's statement was released as he met China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Port Moresby to discuss building closer relations. Marape also called on the US to clean up the wreckage of war. "Our people daily live with the fear of being killed by detonated bombs of WWII," he said. (More President Biden stories.)

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