A history of the "awkward handshake"
It was the most awkward ending to a presidential press conference in recent memory: Raúl Castro seizing President Obama’s left forearm and hoisting it skyward, the presidential wrist left to dip in the air.
An instant GIF sensation, the three-second moment came seconds after Castro ended their joint media event while fending off questions about Cuba’s political prisoners. When Castro declared the press conference over, two leaders shook hands before the awkwardness began.
As the handshake ended, Obama appeared to use his left arm to reach for Castro’s back for a friendly pose before the cameras.
But Castro, without looking, intervened. The Cuban president’s right hand seized the U.S. president’s left forearm, and hoisted it.
It looked like the beginning of a pose a prizefight announcer might use to crown a boxing a champ, or how a presidential nominee embraces a running mate on the convention stage. But Castro, considerably shorter than Obama, didn’t have the hand clasp needed to complete that kind of pairing. Instead, he lifted the forearm just above his head.
As Obama turned to wave at the cameras, the most commented-upon sequence occurred: The presidential wrist flapped once from Castro’s hoist.
The moment seemed to end when the two jointly lowered their arms, with Obama’s hand ending in a clasp of the back of Castro’s own hand.