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White House: Obama not propping up Joe Biden

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk during a photo-op as they meet for lunch in the Private Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The White House, in damage control after a blistering memoir by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates went public, insisted that a full slate of events between President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was not meant to prop up Biden.

In a rare move, the White House opened up the weekly lunch between Obama and Biden to photographers Wednesday, prompting speculation that the administration was trying to gloss over a brutal 24 hours for Obama’s number two.

“You can decide for yourself what you want to believe,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday, calling the timing of the photo access a “coincidence.”

In his memoir, Gates saved his harshest critique for Biden, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates wrote.

The White House is calling Biden “one of the leading statesmen of his time,” a label the vice president will surely embrace if he runs for president in 2016.

In addition to the White House lunch, Biden on Wednesday met with privacy advocates and leaders of the intelligence community to discuss Obama’s much-anticipated reforms for the National Security Agency. Later Wednesday, Biden will also attend a meeting with Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Republicans mocked the suggestion that it was business as usual at the White House on Wednesday.

“Funny time in the White House briefing room - @PressSec still saying Biden photo op was for access to press,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski on Twitter.