WH doesn’t dispute Biden's description of Putin as ’dictator'
© Greg Nash

The White House refused Thursday to dispute Vice President Biden’s decision to call Vladimir Putin a “dictator,” a word the government does not typically use to describe the Russian leader. 

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “there is no official government designation about dictatorships,” when asked about Biden’s remark during his Wednesday night speech to the Democratic National Convention. 

Earnest cited an April State Department report on human rights that said Russia “has a highly centralized, authoritarian political system dominated by President Vladimir Putin” and that its civic institutions “lacked independence from the executive branch.”


Putin was overwhelmingly elected president in 2012, but his opponents alleged the contest was marred by widespread fraud. 

The spokesman stopped short of calling Putin a dictator, nor does the report use the word to describe him. 

Still, Earnest said, “You’d be hard pressed to draw a distinction between the word that Vice President Biden used and the language that was included in the State Department report.”

In a rousing speech in Philadelphia, Biden lashed out at Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE as someone who “belittles our closest allies” while “embracing dictators like Vladimir Putin.”

The eyebrow-raising comment came after Trump said he hoped Russia has obtain Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Top federal official says more details coming on foreign election interference The Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  MORE’s private emails and releases them to the public. 

Trump later said he was being "sarcastic" in asking Russia to find and reveal Clinton's deleted emails from the private server she used while secretary of State.