President Obama started a speech Tuesday with some self-deprecating humor, joking about remarks he made last week in Seoul to Russian President Dimitry Medvedev that were meant to be private, but were caught by open microphones in the room.
"It is a pleasure to speak to all of you," he told the group gathered for an Associated Press luncheon in Washington. "And to have a microphone that I can see."
Obama was referencing the beginning of a bilateral meeting with outgoing Russian President Dimitry Medvedev while in South Korea for a summit last week, in which the president was heard by microphones admitting he would have an easier time dealing with Russia on missile defense after the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Medvedev indicated he understood the president's position and would "transmit" the message to his predecessor Vladimir Putin.
The president pointed back to Medvedev's offer during the luncheon Tuesday. "Feel free to transmit any of this to Vladimir if you see him," he said.
Critics spent last week slamming the president for appearing weak in front of the Russian president on an issue that has been one of the most contentious between the two countries. The open-mic misstep drowned out other news from the summit.
The U.S. and its NATO allies began work on the defense system over eastern Europe while George W. Bush was president. Though the U.S. insists the shield would be used to protect against terrorists or rogue nations that acquire weapons, Russia is concerned the system is aimed at them and could hurt its own missile deterrent.
This is the third time Obama has joked about the comments, after doing so twice the day after it happened.