Fact Check

Did Biden Confuse ‘All Blacks’ Rugby Team with ‘Black and Tans’ Paramilitary Force?

The U.S. president lauded rugby player Rob Kearney during his three-day trip to Ireland in April 2023.

Published Apr 13, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden tours Carlingford Castle with Micheál Martin, Tánaiste of Ireland, in County Louth, Ireland. (The White House/Wikimedia Commons)
U.S. President Joe Biden tours Carlingford Castle with Micheál Martin, Tánaiste of Ireland, in County Louth, Ireland. (Image Via The White House/Wikimedia Commons)
During a trip to Ireland in April 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden confused New Zealand's "All Blacks" national rugby team for the "Black and Tans," a British paramilitary force of the 1920s known for its brutality against the Irish people.

U.S. President Joe Biden is known for his public gaffes, but one in particular left a number of Irish people "in stitches." During a three-day trip to Ireland in April 2023, Biden was speaking at the Windsor pub in Dundalk, when he confused New Zealand's All Blacks national rugby team with the notorious Black and Tans, the British paramilitary force of the early 20th century. 

The video of his mix-up also went viral:

This is an authentic video of Biden's comment, with the White House transcripts to prove it. Biden was speaking about Irish rugby player Rob Kearney, who is also a distant cousin of his, and thanking him for beating the All Blacks — except that the words that came out of his mouth were, "the Black and Tans." In acknowledgment of the gaffe, the White House amended his words in the official transcript to reference the "All Blacks," and crossed out "Black and Tans" from the script:

You see this tie I have with this shamrock on it?  This was given to me by one of these guys right here.  He was a hell of a rugby player, and he beat the hell out of the Black and Tans [All Blacks]. Oh, God. (Laughter.)

'Black and Tans" was a nickname for a British paramilitary force formed in 1920 to suppress and target the Irish Republican Army (IRA). According to the Irish Times, due to a shortage of uniforms, the members of this force wore a mixture of police and military gear, darker police outfits with khaki. The group was known for its brutality, for sacking various towns, and for targeting citizens with harassment, extrajudicial killings, and more.  

According to the New Zealand Rugby Museum, the All Blacks nickname for the country's national team emerged from their uniform: 

Today the accepted view is the name "All Blacks" came about as a consequence of their uniform which was composed of black jersey, shorts and socks.  "The New Zealand team, dressed all in black..."  The use of the word "All" was common in the early 20th Century. It's use probably distinguished a fully international team from a team representing that country. In rugby "All Japan" was used for the Japanese international side.

Thus, Biden's confusing the New Zealand rugby team with the brutal paramilitary force led to no shortage of jokes on Irish Twitter:

Given that Biden's words were verified and transparently corrected in the official White House transcripts, we rate this claim as a "Correct Attribution." 


"All Blacks or Black and Tans?: Biden Confuses Rugby Team with British Paramilitary Group – Video." The Guardian, 13 Apr. 2023. www.theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2023/apr/13/joe-biden-confuses-all-blacks-with-black-and-tans-during-ireland-visit-video. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

"All Blacks - The Name." New Zealand Rugby Museum. https://www.rugbymuseum.co.nz/stories/history-of-nz-rugby/all-blacks-the-name. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

"1916 Easter Rising - Aftermath - The Black and Tans." BBC. https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/easterrising/aftermath/af05.shtml. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

"Black and Tans: 'Half-Drunk, Whole-Mad' and One-Fifth Irish." The Irish Times, https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/black-and-tans-half-drunk-whole-mad-and-one-fifth-irish-1.4113220. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

Carroll, Rory, and Lisa O'Carroll. "Joe Biden Confuses All Blacks with Black and Tans during Ireland Trip." The Guardian, 13 Apr. 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/apr/13/white-house-corrects-black-and-tans-to-all-blacks-after-biden-gaffe.  Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

"Remarks by President Biden Participating in a Community Gathering." The White House, 12 Apr. 2023, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/04/12/remarks-by-president-biden-participating-in-a-community-gathering/. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

Mikkelson, David. "Did Biden Say Poor Kids Are 'Just as Talented as White Kids'?" Snopes, 21 Feb. 2020, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/biden-poor-kids-white-kids/.  Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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