Technical snafus disrupt Biden climate summit
President Biden hosted more than three dozen world leaders virtually Thursday to discuss climate change, a meeting that at times suffered from the kinds of technical difficulties that have become commonplace during the coronavirus pandemic.
Vice President Harris opened the conference with remarks from the East Room, only to have her voice echo on the live feed streamed from the White House website, making it difficult to hear what she was saying.
The echoing continued into Biden’s opening remarks. After it was fixed for the bulk of his comments, it returned when Biden spoke to participants later Thursday morning.
Audio issues affected other speakers as well. United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson was interrupted by dial sounds, as if someone were pressing phone keys near his microphone.
When recorded remarks from French President Emmanuel Macron began to play, the video portion did not include English subtitles, prompting Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cut away and move to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who apparently was not prepared to give his live remarks at that moment.
“The floor is now to the President of the Russian Federation,” Blinken said after several moments of silence, as Putin continued to shift in his seat, seemingly unaware that attention had turned to him. “They may be getting Macron, because that was a tape of Macron.”
More than a minute later, Putin began giving his remarks.
Blinken later returned to Macron’s clip, citing “technical difficulties” for skipping over his prepared remarks earlier. This time, the tape played with the English translation.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also found himself without audio for several moments as he began speaking.
“Mr. Prime Minister, I’m not sure we’re hearing you here,” Blinken said. After about 50 seconds, the audio issue was resolved and Morrison’s voice could be heard.
While the meeting moved more smoothly as the morning went on, the disruptions lay bare the challenges of online group communications in the coronavirus era, even for a well-oiled apparatus like the White House.
In order to adhere to health safety precautions during the pandemic, Biden and other officials have conducted many of their meetings virtually, especially those with foreign leaders and officials. Biden held his first two bilateral meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, respectively, over a large video screen and hosted the first-ever “Quad” leaders summit virtually in March.
For the first time as president last week, though, Biden welcomed a foreign leader in person to the White House when he met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshishide Suga to discuss the security of East Asia and how to address China and North Korea.
During a joint news conference, Biden emphasized the significance of the in-person meeting during the pandemic, making clear his preference for face-to-face talks.
“We’ve already met several times virtually at a G-7 meeting and a Quad Leader Summit, but I greatly appreciate the chance to spend time with you in person,” Biden said. “There’s no substitute for face-to-face discussions.”
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