• Joe Biden mistakenly referred to New Zealand’s national union rugby team, the All Blacks, as the Black and Tans while paying tribute to a cousin, former Irish rugby union player Rob Kearney.
  • The two men are fifth cousins, related through their Finnegan and Kearney ancestors.

President Joe Biden stumbled over a tribute to a cousin on Wednesday, congratulating his Irish relative for beating “the Black and Tans,” a team that doesn’t exist.

Speaking at the Windsor Bar in Dundalk, Ireland, this week, Biden gave a nod to the cousin, former Irish rugby union player Rob Kearney. The president said the tie he was wearing was given to him by Kearney, whom he described as being a “hell of a rugby player who beat the hell out of the Black and Tans.”

Irish observers quickly noticed that the president may have meant New Zealand’s national union rugby team, the All Blacks, which Kearney’s team defeated at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 2016.

Rob Crilly, the Daily Mail‘s senior U.S. politics reporter, said things likely got “muddled” since Kearney was notably on the team that beat New Zealand in 2016 and because the rugby player had no tie to the Royal Irish Constabulary. Black and Tans was the name given to British recruits enrolled in the RIC, a police force, during the Irish War of Independence. The RIC was disbanded in 1921.

Joe Biden Flubs Tribute Rugby Player Cousin
During his visit to Ireland this week, President Joe Biden delivers a speech at Belfast’s Ulster University on Wednesday.
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

Irish sports site Balls.ie agreed that Biden was likely “confusing the All Blacks with the Black and Tans,” while Sky News Ireland correspondent Stephen Murphy called the president’s comment a “gaffe.”

Biden, an Irish Catholic, is touring Ireland as part of a visit marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland in 1998.

On Wednesday, he traveled from Dublin to Dundalk, where he was greeted by a waiting crowd and met with Micheál Martin, the tánaiste of Ireland. The two toured Carlingford Castle together, a location that offered a view of the inlet where Biden’s great-grandfather left for America in 1849.

Throughout his trip, Biden has worn his Irish ties on his sleeve, at one point recalling that his grandfather used to tell him, “Remember, Joey, the best drop of blood in you is Irish.”

Kearney was among those accompanying Biden in Dundalk. On Wednesday, Biden said he wore the tie that his cousin gave him “with great pride.” Last month, Kearney visited the president at the White House to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

The Irish Family History Center determined that the two men are related after discovering that Biden’s and Kearney’s fathers are fifth cousins, “related through their Finnegan and Kearney ancestors on the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth,” according to Epic: The Irish Emigration Museum.

Newsweek reached out by email to the White House for comment.