President Biden publicly acknowledged his 4-year-old granddaughter, Navy Joan Roberts, for the first time on Friday, saying in a statement that he and the first lady, Jill Biden, “only want what is best for all of our grandchildren, including Navy.”
The statement came as Mr. Biden faced increasing pressure from critics who said that failing to acknowledge Navy publicly went against the image of a loving patriarch that he has nurtured since the beginning of his political career.
“Our son Hunter and Navy’s mother, Lunden, are working together to foster a relationship that is in the best interests of their daughter, preserving her privacy as much as possible going forward,” Mr. Biden told People magazine in a statement.
“This is not a political issue, it’s a family matter,” Mr. Biden continued. “Jill and I only want what is best for all of our grandchildren, including Navy.”
Hunter Biden, 53, who is recovering from crack cocaine addiction, is the last surviving son of the president, who lost his eldest, Beau, to brain cancer in 2015. The younger Mr. Biden, who has five children, has said that he fathered Navy at a low point in his life and that he did not have a relationship with her.
President Biden had followed his son’s lead, referring to six grandchildren instead of seven.
“I have six grandchildren. And I’m crazy about them,” the president told a group of children in April. “And I speak to them every single day. Not a joke.”
In White House strategy meetings, aides have been told that the Bidens have six, not seven, grandchildren, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
But in recent weeks, the president told his son that he wanted to meet Navy when the time was right, according to a person familiar with those discussions. The person was not authorized to speak publicly.
On Friday, another person familiar with the situation said the president would say that he had seven grandchildren going forward. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private matter.
Hunter Biden and the child’s mother, Lunden Roberts, recently settled a yearslong child support case. Ms. Roberts told The New York Times earlier this month that she and Hunter “want what is best for our daughter, and that is our only focus.”
Since they entered the White House, the president and the first lady have centered their family lives around their grandchildren. Hunter Biden’s eldest, Naomi Biden, married on the South Lawn of the White House last fall. The youngest, who is named for Hunter’s late brother, Beau, is 3 years old and is photographed frequently with his grandparents.
The White House had no comment on whether or when the president intends to meet Navy, who lives in Arkansas. Lunden Roberts and her attorney, Clint Lancaster, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.
In earlier interviews, Ms. Roberts said Navy was proud of the paternal side of her family.
“She’s very proud of who her grandfather is and who her dad is,” Ms. Roberts said. “That is something that I would never allow her to think otherwise.”
Ms. Roberts, 32, and Hunter Biden ended the court battle over child support in June, agreeing that Mr. Biden, who has embarked on a career as a painter, would turn over a number of his paintings to his daughter in addition to providing a monthly support payment.
Navy will select the paintings from her father, according to court documents.
Before that settlement, Hunter Biden had paid Ms. Roberts upward of $750,000, according to his attorneys, and sought to reduce his $20,000-a-month child support payment on the grounds that he did not have the money. The new amount is lower than what had been originally ordered by the court, according to a person familiar with the case.