Biden said during a 2019 fundraiser that he told Putin, “I don’t think you have a soul.” He repeated the claim in 2021 when he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos he had looked Putin in his eyes and said he didn’t have a “soul,” to which he said Putin replied, “We understand each other.”
NBC News reporter Keir Simmons sat down with Putin in Moscow for an interview released Monday and asked the Russian leader if he recalls Biden’s version of events.
“I do not remember this particular part of our conversations, to be honest with you. I do not remember,” Putin said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t recall President Biden’s often-told story. (Getty Images)
“We all, when we meet, when we get together, when we talk, when we work and strive and achieve some solutions, we all proceed from the interests of our nations and our states. And this is fundamental and is the bedrock of all our actions and intentions,” Putin said. “This is the driving force and the motive for organizing meetings of this kind. And, as far as soul goes, that’s something for the church.”
Simmons stayed on the subject, saying, “You’re a religious man. President Biden is saying he told you to your face, ‘You don’t have a soul.’”
Putin show back, “I do not remember this … something wrong with my memory.”
Simmons recounted that Biden said the exchange took place a decade ago when he was vice president.
“In personal encounters, people try to act appropriately. I do not remember any inappropriate elements of behavior on the part of my counterparts. I don’t think that anything like that — has happened. Perhaps he did say something, but I do not remember,” Putin said.
Simmons asked if such a comment would have been an appropriate thing to say, to which Putin replied it would depend on the context.
“One can say this in different ways,” he said. “It can be presented in different ways. But generally, people meet up in order to establish a relationship and create an environment and conditions for joint work, with a view to achieving some kind of positive results. If one is going to have a fight with somebody else — why bother and have a meeting?
“One’s better off looking into budget and social policies, domestically. We have many issues that we have to resolve. What’s the point then? It’s just a waste of time.”
Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report.