Advertisement

Biden 'did not apologize' for using term 'an illegal' during State of the Union, White House says

President Joe Biden "absolutely did not apologize" for his use of the term "an illegal" during last week's State of the Union address, principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters Monday.

"I want to be really clear about something: the president absolutely did not apologize. There was no apology anywhere in that conversation," Dalton said. "He did not apologize. He used a different word."

Biden made the "illegal" comment during an ad-libbed exchange with GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after being heckled by her and other Republicans to say the name of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student police say was murdered in Georgia last month. The suspect is a Venezuelan migrant whom officials say was illegally in the U.S.

Biden, appearing to mispronounce her name as "Lincoln Riley," called her "an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal," a term many immigrants and advocates find offensive.

Dalton was pressed by reporters about comments Biden made when he was questioned about the exchange during an interview with MSNBC that aired Saturday in which he said he regrets his use of the term.

"I shouldn't have used illegal, it's undocumented," he told Jonathan Capehart. When Capehart asked, "So, you regret using that word?" Biden responded, "Yes."

PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden gestures after delivering remarks on lowering costs for American families during a visit to Goffstown, N.H., March 11, 2024. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden gestures after delivering remarks on lowering costs for American families during a visit to Goffstown, N.H., March 11, 2024. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

MORE: Marjorie Taylor Greene interrupts Biden's State of the Union over Laken Riley's murder

Former President Donald Trump and other Republicans seized on Biden's interview comment. "Joe Biden went on television and apologized for calling Laken's murderer an illegal," Trump said at a rally in Georgia Saturday. "Biden should be apologizing for apologizing to this killer."

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally at the Forum River Center March 09, 2024 in Rome, Ga. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally at the Forum River Center March 09, 2024 in Rome, Ga. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In the interview, Biden went on to say that during his address he was speaking of immigrants as a group.

"And look, when I spoke about the difference between Trump and me, one of the things I talked about in the border was that his -- the way he talks about 'vermin' and the way he talks about these people 'polluting the blood," Biden said to Capehart. "I talked about what I'm not going to do, what I won't do. I'm not going to treat any, any, any of these people with disrespect."

Dalton said Biden was speaking "passionately about knowing what it means to lose a child and extended his deep grief and condolences to Laken Riley's family in front of the entire country." She also criticized Republicans who have not acted on a bipartisan border bill, saying they are "playing politics" with Riley's death.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on March 7, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on March 7, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

MORE: Suspect charged with murder after woman who went on run found dead on University of Georgia campus

"I think it's unconscionable that there are some people who are playing politics with this young woman's tragic murder," Dalton said. "And particularly at a time, when let's not forget, House Republicans are standing in the way of a bipartisan border security agreement."

Vice President Kamala Harris didn't say whether she was comfortable with Biden's use of the term when asked about it by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce in an interview Friday.

"Well, I was there, as you know, and it was a pretty chaotic scene in terms of the crosstalk that was happening in the room," Harris said. "But I think the president really did an important point that he wanted to make, which was to express his empathy with the family of that victim, and to let them know that he understood their pain or that there should be accountability."

ABC News' Mary Bruce, Fritz Farrow and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

Biden 'did not apologize' for using term 'an illegal' during State of the Union, White House says originally appeared on abcnews.go.com