What President Obama Thought About That Awkward Handshake With Raul Castro

The White House explains why Obama resisted clasping hands with Castro.

ByABC News
March 28, 2016, 5:49 PM

— -- It was the awkward handshake seen around the world -- Cuban President Raul Castro attempting to raise President Obama’s hand in solidarity last week while the American president did everything he could, even going limp -- to avoid it.

Today, the White House weighed in on that clumsy encounter and explained why the president resisted.

“I do think that President Castro had in mind a rather iconic photo with President Obama and his arms raised together. I think President Obama believed that that would imply a whole lot more agreement on some priorities than actually exists,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today.

“The president was, of course, entirely comfortable appearing onstage with President Castro. They had important conversations behind the scenes, but I also think their differences of opinion on some really important priorities was also pretty evident from that news conference," Earnest added. "And, you know, that's why the president resisted the -- you know, the idea of a photograph like the one that President Castro apparently envisioned.”

Asked if Obama anticipated the gesture, Earnest said, “I don't know that anybody was expecting him to do that. But I think the president did observe that for an 84-year-old, President Castro still has some pretty quick reflexes.”