South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol was heard calling U.S. lawmakers “idiots,” saying it would be “humiliating” for President Joe Biden if they do not approve global health funding, according to multiple reports.
Yoon and Biden met at a conference for the Global Fund in New York on Wednesday. Biden has pledged $6 billion from the United States to the organization’s efforts to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The funding requires approval from Congress.
“It would be so humiliating for Biden if these idiots don’t pass it in Congress,” Yoon was heard saying as he and a group left the Global Fund event, as translated by multiple outlets.
Video of the comments quickly went viral online. Some translations of Yoon’s comments use an expletive instead of the word “idiots.”
South Korea’s presidential office on Thursday said Yoon’s comments were not focused on the U.S., according to multiple reports. A spokesperson for the president’s office, Kim Eun-hye, said Yoon did not say Biden, but a word that sounds similar in Korean. She also said he was referring to South Korean lawmakers, not U.S. members of Congress.
The hot mic moment did not go unnoticed by U.S. lawmakers, however. U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., on Thursday tweeted “hey, only we get to say that.”
USA TODAY has reached out to the White House for comment.
The White House this week said Biden and Yoon met at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, discussing cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea and a range of other topics.