Jill Biden on Thursday defended bringing granddaughter Naomi Biden on a taxpayer funded trip to Africa, noting that other presidents and first ladies have brought family members on foreign trips.
‘It’s so great for me to be able to bring a member of the family. I think it’s a tradition, or, actually that we’ve seen other families from first families, bring members of their family to just see the rest of the world and just experience the world,’ she said during a stop in Namibia.
Naomi Biden, 29, has been at the first lady’s side at every stop during her trip, thus far.
The two women even stopped to hand out White House M&Ms to a group of kids on the roadside who were watching the motorcade.
Jill Biden and Naomi Biden hand out White House M&Ms to kids in Namibia
Jill Biden shakes hands with children
Jill Biden waves goodbye to the kids
‘Candy from the United States,’ the first lady announced as she got out of her car with Naomi hot on her heels.
The two were immediately swarmed by a score of children, who shrieked with joy once they got their hands on the sweet treats.
The duo quickly ran out of candy and when a young boy looked wide-eyed after the first lady ran out of sweets, she told the disappointed child, ‘I’m so sorry, I don’t have any more.’ But when he turned away, she said: ‘Wait!’ and gave him the blue tote bag with the U.S. presidential seal used to carry the M&Ms.
Jill Biden is on a goodwill trip to Africa to shore up American relations with countries there as her husband’s administration tries to counter Chinese influence on the continent.
Her first stop on her six-day trip is Namibia. She heads to Kenya on Friday.
Naomi Biden is the first family’s oldest grandchild and lives in the White House. She had her wedding to Peter Neal on the South Lawn in November.
‘Historically, family members of Presidents and First Ladies have frequently joined them during international travel. The Bidens are following the practices consistent with those used by prior Administrations,’ East Wing spokesperson Vanessa Valdivia said in a statement.
Michelle Obama brought daughters Sasha and Malia to Africa when she visited in June 2016. And Hillary Clinton brought daughter Chelsea when she traveled to the region.
The Bidens, who are close to their grandchildren, often bring them on trips and to events.
Naomi’s sisters Finnegan and Maisy were with the Bidens in Spain over the summer when they attended a meeting of NATO countries in Madrid.
Jill Biden acknowledged her granddaughter’s presence on her Africa trip, pulling her into photo ops and asking her if she wants to ask any questions.
At a lunch on Thursday, where she spoke of her friendship with Namibian first lady Monica Geingos, Biden noted: ‘We both have precious granddaughters named Naomi.’
Naomi Biden (right) has been at Jill Biden’s side during her Africa trip
Jill Biden hands 11-month-old Joseph his pacifier after he dropped it
Naomi has remained relatively quiet in public appearances.
‘I love your dress,’ she told one woman and then gave her a hug during a stop at the Hope Initiatives Southern Africa (HISA) in Katutura – a neighborhood outside of the capital city of Windhoek.
Jill Biden met with women at the center that ensures they have access to economic opportunities and health services. The center also receives HIV funding from PEPFAR, a grand program started by George W. Bush that the Biden administration is trying to renew.
She chatted for nearly an hour with the participants. She met an 11-month year old named Joseph and reached down to pick up his pacifier when he dropped it.
Naomi Biden, wearing an olive-green jumpsuit, listened to the stories alongside the first lady.
Jill Biden sympathized with a young mother who was struggling to earn a living.
‘You have to be able to support yourself and your baby, right?’ she said. ‘But you’ll get there, you’ll get there. You’ll do it because you have to. Once you have a baby, you have to take care of that baby. That’s your responsibility, right? You’ll get there. You’ll do it. The moms are the tigers. We fight for our kids.’
Jill Biden and Naomi Biden arrived in Africa on Wednesday
Naomi Biden has joined photo-ops including one with Jill Biden, Namibian President Hage Geingob and his wife Monica Geingos