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Biden angers Papua New Guinea with cannibal story

US President Biden spoke at a campaign event about his uncle, who was allegedly eaten by cannibals. The story turned out to be a legend. Papua New Guinea reacted angrily.

US President Joe Biden has trouble with Papua New Guinea: He recently told an anecdote that an uncle of his was supposedly eaten by cannibals during the Second World War. “He was shot down over New Guinea and they never found his body because there were really a lot of cannibals in that part of New Guinea,” Biden said at a campaign appearance last Wednesday. The story turned out to be a legend.

The head of government of Papua New Guinea has now also rejected the story. Sometimes there are “moments of confusion,” said James Marape about Biden’s controversial statements in an interview on Monday.

Researchers from Papua New Guinea described Biden's comments to the British newspaper Guardian as “unfounded” and “ill-judged.” Melanesians, which include Papua New Guineans, would find this kind of categorization “very offensive,” said Michael Kambuni of the University of Papua New Guinea.

Uncle died at Plane crash

The White House backtracked shortly after Biden's election campaign appearance: His spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre explained that Biden's uncle Ambrose Finnegan died in a plane crash off New Guinea in 1944.

According to the Pentagon's department responsible for investigating missing soldiers, the plane had an engine failure and had to make an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the island. The plane hit the surface of the sea hard.

A reconnaissance flight the next day discovered no trace of the missing aircraft or the three crew members. Suspicion of cannibalism is not mentioned in the official war reports on the case.

Papua New Guinea is conciliatory

However, Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Marape was conciliatory: the relations between the countries are stronger than “a blurry moment”. Marape said he has met Biden a total of four times so far. At every opportunity, the US President “highly praised” Papua New Guinea.

There was never any mention of “cannibals” in connection with his country. Instead, there are important issues, such as the danger of unexploded explosive devices from the Second World War, that need to be eliminated.

Biden confused Kohl with Merkel

Historically, cannibalism has been documented among a small number of tribes in remote parts of Papua New Guinea. The country has been trying to get rid of this outdated image for decades.

Recently, Biden repeatedly caused a stir with comments. The 81-year-old had confused the late former Chancellor Helmut Kohl with the former Chancellor Angela Merkel and also the late French head of state François Mitterrand with the incumbent Emmanuel Macron. However, Biden has always dismissed concerns about his old age.

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