newsU.S.-Israel Relations

After denying he said Netanyahu needs ‘come to Jesus’ meeting, Biden doubles down on ‘MSNBC’

The first meaning of the term, per the Oxford English Dictionary, is "designating a person or group of people who encourage others to accept Christianity."

U.S. President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on June 22, 2023. Credit: Muhammad Aamir Sumsum/Shutterstock.
U.S. President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on June 22, 2023. Credit: Muhammad Aamir Sumsum/Shutterstock.

After first denying that he had said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needed to have a “come to Jesus” moment, U.S. President Joe Biden admitted to making the remark post-State of the Union address during a March 9 interview on MSNBC’s “The Saturday Show with Jonathan Capehart.”

“What I meant was, it’s an expression used in the southern part of my state meaning a serious meeting,” Biden said. “I’ve known Bibi for 50 years. He knew what I meant by it.”

Capehart pressed. “What’s the ‘come to Jesus’ part? What tough love are you going to give to the prime minister?”

“What’s happening is he has a right to defend Israel, a right to continue to pursue Hamas, but he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken,” Biden said. “In my view, he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel by making the rest of the world—it’s contrary to what Israel stands for.”

“I think it’s a big mistake,” the U.S. president added. “I want to see a ceasefire.”

Asked if there is a red line that Israel could cross, Biden replied “there is a red line, but I’m never going to leave Israel.”

“The defense of Israel is still critical,” Biden said. “There is no red line I’m going to cut off all weapons so they don’t have the Iron Dome to protect them.”

“But there are red lines if he crosses them—you cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead,” Biden added, using the death count that the Hamas-controlled health authorities in Gaza have used.

Capehart asked Biden if he would go to Israel and address the Knesset. “Yes,” Biden said.

“Would that have to be at the invitation of the prime minister, or could that be at the invitation of the president?” Capehart asked.

“I’d rather not discuss it more,” Biden said.

‘Come to Jesus’

Some 22 minutes after he finished delivering the State of the Union address on Thursday night, Biden was caught on a hot mic saying that Netanyahu must have a “come to Jesus” experience.

Biden, who is Catholic, was talking about the Jewish leader with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and U.S. Secretary of State Atony Blinken, both of whom have Jewish ancestry, and with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who is Christian.

The audio is somewhat garbled, but Biden could be heard telling Bennet that he told Netanyahu that he had to have a “come to Jesus” moment.

“‘I told him, “Bibi”—and don’t repeat this—”you and I are going to have a come to Jesus—,”’ Biden began as an aide rushed over to stop him from saying more, exclaiming ‘Sir!’ and whispering in his ear,” the New York Post reported.

“‘I’m on a hot mic here,’ Biden said out loud, adding sarcastically, ‘Good. That was good,’” the Post added.

The Hill quoted the president slightly differently. “You and I are going to have a come-to-Jesus meeting,” it reported Biden saying, “adding he didn’t want them to repeat what he said.”

“An aide to Biden then appeared to inform the president that his microphone was still on. ‘I’m on a hot mic here,’ Biden replied. ‘Good. That’s good,’” The Hill added.

Asked on Friday about the statement, Biden said “I didn’t say that,” per the White House pool report. A reporter asked the president whether he said it after his State of the Union address. “You guys eavesdropped on me,” the president said.

Before Biden’s hot mic declaration, Bennet said he had told Blinken that he was recently in Jordan and Israel.

“You gotta just keep pushing the humanitarian stuff,” the senator told Biden, as Blinken nodded several times.

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