Connect with us

World News

Online Hate Becomes Real-World Violence In Israel–Palestine

Published

on


Amir Levy / Getty Images

The car of the man who was attacked and injured in Bat Yam, Israel

As an uneasy ceasefire takes hold in Israel–Palestine, digital terror is not slowing down. Online hate, harassment, and coordination of physical violence have sprouted across social media channels. One Israeli group that combats disinformation and hate cannot work fast enough.

From its offices in Israel, FakeReporter has been sending reports of online threats to Israeli authorities, hoping to prevent them from becoming a reality. The watchdog group of about 10 researchers, activists, and online investigators who are largely volunteers dig into false information and fake accounts online. They had previously focused on state-sponsored disinformation and were caught off guard by the growth of digital hate within Israel.

“We’re a disinformation watchdog group so in a way, we weren’t ready for this situation,” Executive Director Achiya Schatz told BuzzFeed News.

The online hate captures only part of the ongoing violence. In the course of the fighting, Israel’s rockets killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children. Thirteen people in Israel, including two children, were killed by Hamas-fired rockets. A cease-fire was agreed to on May 21.

But for FakeReporter, the conflict made it clear that the divisions within Israeli society have led to online hate and physical violence. Their team has been working full days and long nights to catalog the violent messages, many of which are crowdsourced through its website. Another organization, Democratic Bloc, helps with the research.

“Right now we’re on a mission to save lives.”

“Right now we’re on a mission to save lives,” Schatz said.

For the past two weeks, they have watched as hate speech has translated into violence on the streets. They’re monitoring nearly 100 WhatsApp and Telegram channels, most of them in Hebrew. There has been violence across Israel, Schatz said, including against Jewish residents, but the far-right Israeli extremists have been more organized.

“The ground was ready for such violence, because I think that the trend of racism in Israel has been going up for years,” Schatz said.


Nurphoto / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Palestinian children play on May 24, 2021, next to buildings heavily damaged by Israeli airstrikes earlier this month in Gaza City.

On May 12 in Bat Yam, a seaside town south of Tel Aviv, a vicious mob attacked a man. FakeReporter watched it happen in the Telegram channels they were monitoring and live on television as the state broadcaster narrated what it called a lynching. The victim was on his way to spend his evening at the beach when a man looked into his car window while it was stuck in traffic and asked him if he was Arab. When he said yes, he was dragged from his car and beaten, as people shouted and filmed the incident on their phones.

The father of four survived but ended up hospitalized and badly hurt. “I was going to the beach [for] time off. I didn’t know I was going to come back like this to my kids,” the victim told Channel 12 News, a top news station in Israel. “Why am I to blame? What did I do to deserve this? Is it my fault I was born Arab?”

Ori Kol, cofounder of FakeReporter, watched the scene unfold on both television and Telegram. “We were trying to see what they were doing, because they were uploading pictures of what they saw, uploading pictures of the violence to the Telegram groups.”

Schatz said FakeReporter filed reports with the Israeli police before the attack, the day of, and the day after, showing extremists threatening to beat up people in Bat Yam. The messages the watchdog group saw were explicit: “I hereby invite you to join a mass brawl on Arabs that will occur today at 6pm in the Bat Yam promenade. Bring the appropriate gear, knives, swords, guns, rocks, wooden boards, cars with bull bars,” one said.

Despite their warning, FakeReporter researchers could only watch as the violence took place. “No one was sent to the ground,” Schatz said. “And a horrible thing happened.”

In the days following the Israeli expulsion of Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and the storming of the al-Aqsa mosque, extremists gloated about weapons and gave advice on where to get them across Telegram and WhatsApp channels. They posted photos of knives, guns, and batons, according to screenshots seen by BuzzFeed News, as well as posting racist slurs, incitement, false information, and coordination on when and where to meet.

“It’s been really a deadly atmosphere in the streets.”

Kol, who monitors some of the groups, said, “It’s been really a deadly atmosphere in the streets.”

Enflaming the tensions have been right-wing influencers like Yair Netanyahu, the son of the Israeli prime minister. With just over 130,000 followers on Twitter, a Telegram channel that added 1,500 followers in the last two weeks, and a podcast, he has taken on a role in Israel similar to the one that Donald Trump Jr. plays in the United States: rallying his father’s online supporters and spreading hate against their opponents.

After Israeli forces bombed a 12-story building in Gaza that the Israeli military claimed contained “Hamas military intelligence assets” (it did not respond to US officials requesting proof), destroying AP and Al Jazeera offices and residences, Yair Netanyahu increased his attacks on the media. (In a statement after the incident, AP said there was “no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building.”)

On May 19, he tweeted a cartoon that showed a crowd of people gathered around a water cooler, with a man holding a rocket launcher standing between them. “Sheila works with Al Jazeera and I’m with the Associated Press,” the woman says to the man with the rocket launcher. “How about you?”

Yair Netanyahu has also been retweeting coverage from popular American right-wing influencers, including Ben Shapiro, Dinesh D’Souza, and Andy Ngo, and news outlets like Breitbart and the Federalist.

“Yair Netanyahu uses his social media platform to provide an independent voice for millions of conservatives in Israel who are sidelined by the Israeli establishment media, which is highly biased against the right-wing,” a spokesperson for the family told BuzzFeed News. “Your article labeling his followers as ‘far right’ is a perfect example of such media distortions in a county that is majority right-wing. And your attempted smear job against Yair only shows why independent voices like his are necessary.”

On May 15, the same day as the AP and Al Jazeera building bombing, Yair Netanyahu tweeted a call for a protest in front of the house of media executive Avi Weiss. The prime minister’s son then posted flyers calling for protests outside media offices that said, “We say no more to the anti-zionist brainwashing of the media.”

The protest was canceled because of the subsequent outcry it received, but FakeReporter has noticed people sharing screenshots of Yair Netanyahu’s tweets. In at least one instance, two people discuss on video whether it would be better to go to the executive’s home or media offices. On Sunday, Yair Netanyahu again called for protests against members of the media.

In recent days, members of the Israeli media have been the victims of violence. Four journalists have been attacked, according to the Jerusalem Post, including one from the public broadcaster that aired the Bat Yam mobbing.

“When we are done fucking Arabs we will go fuck the media,” said one message in a Telegram chat. Others called for a destruction of studios and called Channel 12 “Al Jazeera in Hebrew,” a term popularized by Yair Netanyahu implying sympathy for Hamas.

Yair’s messages are often fodder for the Israeli far-right groups, according to Tehilla Schwartz Altshuler, head of the Media Reform Program at the Israel Democracy Institute, who studies Israeli social media and consults with FakeReporter.

“I’m concerned, I’m very scared,” she told BuzzFeed News. “Because I think to myself it’s a very delicate dog whistle and the right-wing extremists and the right-wing activists, they understand exactly the messages that appear on Twitter. They take them to WhatsApp or to Telegram and then all of a sudden they become a call for action.”

And while the building attack horrified international observers, it inspired extremists within Israel, bolstered by Yair Netanyahu’s tweets, which they screenshotted and circulated.

“His main contribution that we have seen to these Telegram groups has been in the past few days where right-wingers in these groups have really begun to point at the media for what they see as unpatriotic, treacherous [behavior],” Kol said.

The personal phone number of one prominent reporter and anchor for Channel 12, Dana Weiss, was posted on the groups alongside messages like “congratulate her on a job well done,” according to Kol. Other texts call her “a spokesperson for Jihad” and circulate badly photoshopped images of her wearing a hijab. As a result, she received scores of violent threats, including death threats.

Kol has seen online hate lead to offline violence over and over again.

“The violence starts online and moves into the streets.”

“The violence starts online and moves into the streets,” he said. “It’s something that we’ve seen in our work at FakeReporter as the main lesson we’ve been trying to pass on. And business is booming for online-inspired lynchings, unfortunately, all over the world.”

World News

Trump’s State Department Officials Fought Over Whether The Coronavirus Was A Chinese Bioweapon

Published

on

In the final days of the Trump administration, the State Department was embroiled in a bitter dispute over China’s role in the origins of COVID-19 that’s now spilling into public view.

In an open letter posted on Medium on Thursday, Christopher Ford, former Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation, said he intervened to prevent the US government from “embarrassing and discrediting” itself by accusing China of having deliberately engineered the coronavirus — despite there being no evidence to make that case.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Ford said his colleagues were pushing to include allegations that China had breached the international Biological Weapons Convention in a State Department report to Congress, which could have set off a diplomatic crisis with one of the US’s chief global rivals.

It is highly unusual for a former senior State Department official to publish a personal account of recent internal disputes. But Ford’s open letter comes in the midst of an acrimonious debate over the so-called “lab leak” hypothesis for the emergence of COVID-19. The most extreme version of this theory suggests that Chinese scientists engineered SARS-CoV-2 as a bioweapon.

Sourcing his account to emails put into the public domain through reporting by Fox News and Vanity Fair, Ford’s Medium post detailed his increasingly fraught relationship with David Asher, a contractor in the State Department who was running its investigation into the origins of COVID-19, and Thomas DiNanno, former acting head of the department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance (AVC). According to Vanity Fair, Asher and DiNanno viewed Ford as pushing a preconceived conclusion that the virus had a natural origin.

In the Medium post, Ford said that DiNanno signaled that the investigation was focusing on “China allegedly having violated the Biological Weapons Convention by creating the virus.” He added: “They seemed to believe that COVID-19 was a biological weapons (BW) effort gone awry — or perhaps even a BW agent deliberately unleashed upon the world.”

“They clearly appeared to be coming at this from a biological weapons angle,” Ford told BuzzFeed News. “They got squirrelly if you pushed back on whether there was evidence to support a biological weaponry finding over the coronavirus, but they seemed to be trying to build a case.”

Ford also told BuzzFeed News that Asher and DiNanno wanted to include the claim that China had breached the Biological Weapons Convention in an annual report prepared for Congress by the State Department. The report, mandated by US law, details nations’ compliance with international agreements on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament.

“Their legal arguments sounded pretty weak to me. They never presented evidence of actual [bioweapons] work,” Ford said, adding that his colleagues were also arguing that China should have been found in breach of the Biological Weapons Convention for failing to fully answer questions about the COVID-19 crisis.

In his open letter, Ford also alleged that Miles Yu, a military historian and specialist on China policy, had told DiNanno that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted to keep the department’s bioweapons experts and the intelligence community out of the loop of the department’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Since the Spring of 2020, Trump and Pompeo had claimed to have evidence that the virus emerged from a lab in Wuhan, China.

Yu denied the claim that Pompeo had sought to keep experts from reviewing the investigation. “AVC’s inquiry was by no means a rogue and hush-hush operation—it cooperated with our national science labs, world renowned scientists of serious but different opinions, and several key agencies of the intelligence community,” Yu told BuzzFeed News by email. “Chris Ford is spinning a narrative contrary to facts to cover up his extreme hostility toward any worthy science-based inquiry supported and encouraged by Secretary Pompeo.

Asher also disputed Ford’s account. “I was shocked that Ford didn’t have an investigation going on when I arrived and set about trying to get to the bottom of possible Chinese violations of the [Biological Weapons Convention]. Work that should be continuing in AVC,” he said by email.

DiNanno did not answer questions from BuzzFeed News, referring us to his account in the Vanity Fair article.

The debate over the origins of the virus has intensified since late March, when a joint WHO-China report came up empty-handed yet judged a lab leak as “extremely unlikely.” This prompted the US and 13 other governments to issue a statement calling for “transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence.”

On May 26, President Joe Biden revealed he had ordered a 90-day intelligence review probing two scenarios: whether the coronavirus spread naturally from animals to people, or was released in a lab accident. And in a call with a senior Chinese official on Friday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pressed China to allow more studies by WHO experts into the origins of the coronavirus.

Leading scientists have also recently called for a deeper investigation into the origins of COVID-19, writing in the journal Science that “the two theories were not given balanced consideration” in the WHO-China study.

Ford is a conservative with a record of being hawkish on the threats posed to the US by China. What triggered his open letter was that his former colleagues had, in his view, mischaracterized him as being inherently opposed to the idea that the coronavirus may have escaped from a lab.

“I strongly supported looking into the ‘lab-leak’ hypothesis, which clearly is a real possibility,” Ford wrote in his Medium post. “But I’m not just saying this now. I said it at the time, too. A lot.”

The lab leak hypothesis isn’t a single unified theory, but rather a constellation of ideas around the origins of COVID-19.

Given a history of slip-ups at virology labs around the world, and a lack of full transparency from China, many scientists accept that there is no way to rule out the possibility that the virus was collected from wild animals and released from a lab in Wuhan by accident. Global attention has focused on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where a team led by Shi Zhengli has catalogued potentially dangerous coronaviruses found in bats.

More elaborate versions of the theory suppose that scientists at the WIV or another lab in the city were engaged in well-intentioned but risky “gain-of-function” experiments, genetically modifying a bat coronavirus to study the changes that would make it more likely to infect people.

Suspicion has fallen on Shi, because she had earlier collaborated on related experiments run by Ralph Baric, a virologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Baric’s team spliced the spike protein from one of Shi’s bat coronaviruses, which it uses to latch onto the cells it infects, into another coronavirus that had been adapted to infect mice.

Shi has denied running any similar gain-of-function experiments since that research was published in 2015. But secrecy surrounding research at the WIV and other labs means that speculation about this possibility continues.

The most extreme idea, regarded as a conspiracy theory by most experts, is that Chinese military scientists deliberately engineered SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as a bioweapon.

In his Medium post, Ford accuses DiNanno of “dragging his feet” over getting the bioweapon claims vetted by the intelligence community and scientific experts. But on January 7 this year, an online meeting involving scientists including Baric and David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University who has repeatedly argued that the lab leak theory deserves thorough investigation, was convened by the State Department to review the evidence.

They heard from Steven Quay, CEO of the biopharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics, who had conducted a statistical analysis that claimed “beyond reasonable doubt” that SARS-CoV-2 was derived in a lab. According to Vanity Fair, Quay’s presentation was criticized by Baric, who noted that they ignored the multitude of bat coronaviruses that remain unknown to science.

In a summary of the meeting Ford sent to State Department colleagues the next day, he wrote: “[H]is statistical analysis is crippled by the fact that we have essentially no data to support key model inputs. Critically, we have no data on the vast majority of bat coronaviruses that exist in the wild.” Ford left the State Department the same day, after having previously announced his intention to step down.

DiNanno later responded: “On the contrary, we don’t need to know every bat coronavirus genome to understand the likelihood of a zoonotic [natural] vs. lab origin. We merely need to reliably estimate the number of bat coronaviruses there are, and factor this into our weighting of our present knowledge about bat coronaviruses.”

Baric and Relman did not respond to requests for comment.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, Quay defended his statistical analysis, saying it has been viewed online over 160,000 times. “I have received no substantive criticism of my work,” he said. “My sense of the meeting was that they were trying as much as possible to simply dismiss me so they could write their report and move on to something else.”

On January 15, Pompeo’s State Department released a “fact sheet” on activities at the WIV, which criticized China’s secrecy around COVID-19.

Instead, it stated, based on intelligence reports, that the US government “has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”

The fact sheet also repeated longstanding US concerns about China’s transparency on its past research on bioweapons: “For many years the United States has publicly raised concerns about China’s past biological weapons work, which Beijing has neither documented nor demonstrably eliminated, despite its clear obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.” And it said the WIV had collaborated on classified research on behalf of the Chinese military since 2017.

But the statement did not make the claim that SARS-CoV-2 was the product of Chinese bioweapons research.

Continue Reading

World News

Trump’s State Department Officials Fought Over Whether The Coronavirus Was A Chinese Bioweapon

Published

on

In the final days of the Trump administration, the State Department was embroiled in a bitter dispute over China’s role in the origins of COVID-19 that’s now spilling into public view.

In an open letter posted on Medium on Thursday, Christopher Ford, former Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation, said he intervened to prevent the US government from “embarrassing and discrediting” itself by accusing China of having deliberately engineered the coronavirus — despite there being no evidence to make that case.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Ford said his colleagues were pushing to include allegations that China had breached the international Biological Weapons Convention in a State Department report to Congress, which could have set off a diplomatic crisis with one of the US’s chief global rivals.

It is highly unusual for a former senior State Department official to publish a personal account of recent internal disputes. But Ford’s open letter comes in the midst of an acrimonious debate over the so-called “lab leak” hypothesis for the emergence of COVID-19. The most extreme version of this theory suggests that Chinese scientists engineered SARS-CoV-2 as a bioweapon.

Sourcing his account to emails put into the public domain through reporting by Fox News and Vanity Fair, Ford’s Medium post detailed his increasingly fraught relationship with David Asher, a contractor in the State Department who was running its investigation into the origins of COVID-19, and Thomas DiNanno, former acting head of the department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance (AVC). According to Vanity Fair, Asher and DiNanno viewed Ford as pushing a preconceived conclusion that the virus had a natural origin.

In the Medium post, Ford said that DiNanno signaled that the investigation was focusing on “China allegedly having violated the Biological Weapons Convention by creating the virus.” He added: “They seemed to believe that COVID-19 was a biological weapons (BW) effort gone awry — or perhaps even a BW agent deliberately unleashed upon the world.”

“They clearly appeared to be coming at this from a biological weapons angle,” Ford told BuzzFeed News. “They got squirrelly if you pushed back on whether there was evidence to support a biological weaponry finding over the coronavirus, but they seemed to be trying to build a case.”

Ford also told BuzzFeed News that Asher and DiNanno wanted to include the claim that China had breached the Biological Weapons Convention in an annual report prepared for Congress by the State Department. The report, mandated by US law, details nations’ compliance with international agreements on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament.

“Their legal arguments sounded pretty weak to me. They never presented evidence of actual [bioweapons] work,” Ford said, adding that his colleagues were also arguing that China should have been found in breach of the Biological Weapons Convention for failing to fully answer questions about the COVID-19 crisis.

In his open letter, Ford also alleged that Miles Yu, a military historian and specialist on China policy, had told DiNanno that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted to keep the department’s bioweapons experts and the intelligence community out of the loop of the department’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Since the Spring of 2020, Trump and Pompeo had claimed to have evidence that the virus emerged from a lab in Wuhan, China.

Yu denied the claim that Pompeo had sought to keep experts from reviewing the investigation. “AVC’s inquiry was by no means a rogue and hush-hush operation—it cooperated with our national science labs, world renowned scientists of serious but different opinions, and several key agencies of the intelligence community,” Yu told BuzzFeed News by email. “Chris Ford is spinning a narrative contrary to facts to cover up his extreme hostility toward any worthy science-based inquiry supported and encouraged by Secretary Pompeo.

Asher also disputed Ford’s account. “I was shocked that Ford didn’t have an investigation going on when I arrived and set about trying to get to the bottom of possible Chinese violations of the [Biological Weapons Convention]. Work that should be continuing in AVC,” he said by email.

DiNanno did not answer questions from BuzzFeed News, referring us to his account in the Vanity Fair article.

The debate over the origins of the virus has intensified since late March, when a joint WHO-China report came up empty-handed yet judged a lab leak as “extremely unlikely.” This prompted the US and 13 other governments to issue a statement calling for “transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence.”

On May 26, President Joe Biden revealed he had ordered a 90-day intelligence review probing two scenarios: whether the coronavirus spread naturally from animals to people, or was released in a lab accident. And in a call with a senior Chinese official on Friday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pressed China to allow more studies by WHO experts into the origins of the coronavirus.

Leading scientists have also recently called for a deeper investigation into the origins of COVID-19, writing in the journal Science that “the two theories were not given balanced consideration” in the WHO-China study.

Ford is a conservative with a record of being hawkish on the threats posed to the US by China. What triggered his open letter was that his former colleagues had, in his view, mischaracterized him as being inherently opposed to the idea that the coronavirus may have escaped from a lab.

“I strongly supported looking into the ‘lab-leak’ hypothesis, which clearly is a real possibility,” Ford wrote in his Medium post. “But I’m not just saying this now. I said it at the time, too. A lot.”

The lab leak hypothesis isn’t a single unified theory, but rather a constellation of ideas around the origins of COVID-19.

Given a history of slip-ups at virology labs around the world, and a lack of full transparency from China, many scientists accept that there is no way to rule out the possibility that the virus was collected from wild animals and released from a lab in Wuhan by accident. Global attention has focused on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where a team led by Shi Zhengli has catalogued potentially dangerous coronaviruses found in bats.

More elaborate versions of the theory suppose that scientists at the WIV or another lab in the city were engaged in well-intentioned but risky “gain-of-function” experiments, genetically modifying a bat coronavirus to study the changes that would make it more likely to infect people.

Suspicion has fallen on Shi, because she had earlier collaborated on related experiments run by Ralph Baric, a virologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Baric’s team spliced the spike protein from one of Shi’s bat coronaviruses, which it uses to latch onto the cells it infects, into another coronavirus that had been adapted to infect mice.

Shi has denied running any similar gain-of-function experiments since that research was published in 2015. But secrecy surrounding research at the WIV and other labs means that speculation about this possibility continues.

The most extreme idea, regarded as a conspiracy theory by most experts, is that Chinese military scientists deliberately engineered SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as a bioweapon.

In his Medium post, Ford accuses DiNanno of “dragging his feet” over getting the bioweapon claims vetted by the intelligence community and scientific experts. But on January 7 this year, an online meeting involving scientists including Baric and David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University who has repeatedly argued that the lab leak theory deserves thorough investigation, was convened by the State Department to review the evidence.

They heard from Steven Quay, CEO of the biopharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics, who had conducted a statistical analysis that claimed “beyond reasonable doubt” that SARS-CoV-2 was derived in a lab. According to Vanity Fair, Quay’s presentation was criticized by Baric, who noted that they ignored the multitude of bat coronaviruses that remain unknown to science.

In a summary of the meeting Ford sent to State Department colleagues the next day, he wrote: “[H]is statistical analysis is crippled by the fact that we have essentially no data to support key model inputs. Critically, we have no data on the vast majority of bat coronaviruses that exist in the wild.” Ford left the State Department the same day, after having previously announced his intention to step down.

DiNanno later responded: “On the contrary, we don’t need to know every bat coronavirus genome to understand the likelihood of a zoonotic [natural] vs. lab origin. We merely need to reliably estimate the number of bat coronaviruses there are, and factor this into our weighting of our present knowledge about bat coronaviruses.”

Baric and Relman did not respond to requests for comment.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, Quay defended his statistical analysis, saying it has been viewed online over 160,000 times. “I have received no substantive criticism of my work,” he said. “My sense of the meeting was that they were trying as much as possible to simply dismiss me so they could write their report and move on to something else.”

On January 15, Pompeo’s State Department released a “fact sheet” on activities at the WIV, which criticized China’s secrecy around COVID-19.

Instead, it stated, based on intelligence reports, that the US government “has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”

The fact sheet also repeated longstanding US concerns about China’s transparency on its past research on bioweapons: “For many years the United States has publicly raised concerns about China’s past biological weapons work, which Beijing has neither documented nor demonstrably eliminated, despite its clear obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.” And it said the WIV had collaborated on classified research on behalf of the Chinese military since 2017.

But the statement did not make the claim that SARS-CoV-2 was the product of Chinese bioweapons research.

Continue Reading

World News

Joe Biden Has Had His First Meeting With Queen Elizabeth As President

Published

on


Jack Hill / AP

President Joe Biden met with Queen Elizabeth II in England on Friday — the first time he has encountered the British sovereign as commander in chief.

The president, accompanied by first lady Jill Biden, were photographed chatting with the Queen at an event for heads of state attending the G7 summit in Cornwall.

Photos showed the Queen — wearing pearls, white gloves, and a floral dress — smiling warmly as she spoke with the first lady outside a giant dome at an eco-park known as the Eden Project, where the leaders had gathered for an evening reception.

Biden is the 13th US president to meet with the Queen, whose reign began in 1953.


/ AP

Queen Elizabeth II and President John F. Kennedy as they pose at Buckingham Palace in London in 1961.

The 95-year-old monarch has met with every US leader during her time on the throne, except for Lyndon Johnson.

Her first meeting as queen was with Dwight Eisenhower in 1957, the same year she met Herbert Hoover more than two decades after he left the White House. In 1951, while she was still a princess, she also met Harry Truman.

Biden had previously met the queen in 1982 when he was a US senator.


Bob Daugherty / AP

President Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth II go horseback riding in the grounds of Windsor Castle, England, in 1982.

Friday’s meeting comes just two months after the queen lost her husband, Prince Philip, who died on April 9 at age 99.

Also present at the G7 event from the British royal family were Prince Charles; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge; and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

In photos, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be seen chatting with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Prince Charles.


Jack Hill – WPA Pool / Getty Images

Friday was the first full day of talks at the summit, with Johnson telling those present it was an opportunity to “level up across our societies” and “build back better” after the coronavirus pandemic.

He also said leaders needed to address issues of economic inequality as well as climate change.

“I actually think that we have a huge opportunity to that because, as G7, we are united in our vision for a cleaner, greener world, a solution to the problems of climate change,” he added.

Before the evening reception, the Queen joined Biden and other world leaders for a group photo, where she made them laugh by asking, “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself?”

“Yes,” Johnson replied. “We have been enjoying ourselves in spite of appearances.”

The Bidens are due to visit Windsor Castle for a special private audience with the Queen on Sunday.

Continue Reading

Trending