The White House communications team had to walk back indications made by President Joe Biden that he trusts Russian Vladimir Putin and that the two leaders trust each other. Biden nodded affirmatively in response to a question about trust between the heads of state. The White House was quick to point out that Biden was giving a "general head nod" in response to "the chaos."
White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reported that President Biden was asked in Geneva "Do you trust Putin? Do you trust each other?" and that the president "looked directly at the reporter and nodded affirmatively."
Press Secretary Jen Psaki walked back the "nod," giving a statement that "During a chaotic free-for-all with members of the press shouting questions over each other, the President gave a general head no in the direction of the media. He wasn't responding to any question or anything other than the chaos."
Breitbart White House correspondent Charlie Spiering notes that Psaki made these assertions before conferring with Biden on what he meant. She assumed he was nodding at chaos, not answering the question.
White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield similarly said that "It was a chaotic scrum with reporters shouting over each other. [The president] was very clearly not responding to any one question, but nodding in acknowledgment to the press generally. He said just two days ago in his presser: 'verify, then trust.'"
What Biden said in that press conference was in answer to a question about President Ronald Regan's concept of "trust, but verify," as regarded his position to the then Soviet Union.
"I'd verify first and then trust," Biden said, noting that treaties aren't about trust but holding adversaries accountable.
"I'm hoping that President Putin concludes that there is some interest in terms of his own interest in changing the perception that the world has of him in terms of whether or not he will engage in behavior that's more consistent with what is considered to be appropriate behavior for a head of state."
Indeed, chaos has surrounded the Biden visit to Europe for first the G7 conference and then the meeting with Putin, on Switzerland's neutral ground. He was seen checking his note cards, which he seems often to have with him, prior to the meeting.
Biden has basically said that he would not be taking questions that were not approved by staff, and during the G7 he repeatedly got the countries of Syria and Libya confused. French President Emanuel Macron claimed that Biden was "part of the club."
CNN simply took the opportunity of the leaders' meeting to fawn over Biden's "significant handshake."