WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Friday that it was inappropriate to poke fun at President Biden for falsely suggesting on two occasions earlier this week that his uncle, Ambrose Finnegan, was eaten by cannibals in New Guinea during World War II.

Jean-Pierre made the scolding comment during a back-and-forth with Fox News reporter Peter Doocy during her regular briefing — while New Guinea residents expressed a mix of outrage and amusement at the 81-year-old president’s remarks.

“Why is President Biden saying [Finnegan] was shot down — there is no evidence of that — and why is he saying that his uncle was eaten by cannibals?” Doocy asked, adding: “That is a bad way to go.”

“He lost his life. Look, we should not make jokes about this,” Jean-Pierre chided.

“It’s not — President Biden said his uncle was eaten by cannibals,” Doocy replied.

“Your last line, it’s for a laugh — it’s for a funny statement,” Jean-Pierre countered. “And he takes this very seriously. His uncle who served and protected this country lost his life serving, and that should matter.”

Biden first implied that his mother’s brother was eaten by tribesmen on Wednesday morning, shortly after visiting a war memorial that bears Finnegan’s name in the president’s birth city of Scranton, Pa.

“He got shot down in an area where there were a lot of cannibals at the time. They never recovered his body, but the government went back when I went down there and they checked and found some parts of the plane,” Biden said.

Hours later, the president told steelworkers in Pittsburgh that Finnegan “got shot down in New Guinea and they never found the body because there used to be — there were a lot of cannibals, for real, in that part of New Guinea.”

Some residents of Papua New Guinea, the present-day country near where Finnegan’s plane crashed in 1944, said they didn’t appreciate Biden’s remarks about cannibalism, which was practiced historically by some, but not all, of the region’s tribes.

“Implying that your [uncle] jumps out of the plane and somehow we think it’s a good meal is unacceptable,” Michael Kabuni, a lecturer in political science at the University of Papua New Guinea, told the Guardian.

“They wouldn’t just eat any white men that fell from the sky.”

Others found Biden’s claim humorous.

Allan Bird, governor of East Sepik province near where Finnegan died, told the British newspaper that “I am lost for words actually.”

“I don’t feel offended. It’s hilarious, really,” Bird said. “I am sure when Biden was a child, those are the things he heard his parents say. And it probably stuck with him all his life.”

The official US military account of Finnegan’s death contradicts the president’s story, and Jean-Pierre acknowledged Thursday that Biden’s relative actually died when his plane crashed into the ocean.

“For unknown reasons, this plane was forced to ditch in the ocean off the north coast of New Guinea. Both engines failed at low altitude, and the aircraft’s nose hit the water hard,”  the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency says.

“Three men failed to emerge from the sinking wreck and were lost in the crash. One crew member survived and was rescued by a passing barge. An aerial search the next day found no trace of the missing aircraft or the lost crew members.”

Biden has a long history of telling provably false personal anecdotes, or dubious tales for which there is no documentation, often in an apparent attempt to connect to his audience.

The oldest-ever sitting president also faces voter concerns about his cognitive fitness for office. He would be 86 if he completes a second term in 2029.

A New York Times poll last month found 73% of registered voters believe Biden is too old to be president — versus 42% who said so of former President Donald Trump, 77, who is seeking a rematch in November.

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