President Biden defended his GOP rival Mitch McConnell after the Senate leader once again froze up while answering questions from reporters — insisting that the bizarre episode is “part of his recovery” from a recent concussion.
The president said McConnell’s “response” was not unusual when recovering from such an injury, and denied having any concerns about the 81-year-old’s ability to effectively lead the Senate.
“I spoke to Mitch. He’s a friend and I spoke to him today,” Biden said when asked about McConnell’s health at a news conference on FEMA’s response to Hurricane Idalia. “And, you know, he was his old self on the telephone.
“And one of the leading women on my staff, her husband’s a neurosurgeon as well,” he noted. “It’s not at all unusual to have the response that sometimes happens to Mitch when you’ve had a severe concussion — it’s part of his recovery.”
“And so I’m confident he’s going to be back to his old self.”
McConnell was cleared to continue to work on Thursday, with Capitol Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan saying in a statement he consulted with the Kentucky Republican and his neurology team.
McConnell stared into space for nearly 30 seconds while answering questions about his plans to run for re-election on Wednesday.WLWT5
McConnell was cleared to continue work on Thursday.WLWT5
McConnell was unable to answer a question about a reelection campaign. AP
He found McConnell was “medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned.”
“Occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration,” Monahan noted.
McConnell suffered a concussion in a fall March 8 at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Washington. He also fell while deplaning a canceled flight at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in northern Virginia July 14.
Thirteen days later, McConnell was answering a question from reporters at the Capitol when he suddenly trailed off and assumed a blank stare for around 20 seconds. On that occasion, the Senate Republican leader was led away by his colleagues before returning to the microphones to take additional questions.
Then on Wednesday, the Senate leader once again froze while answering a question about the prospects of him running for re-election in 2026.
His eyes darted upwards and he stared blankly into space as an aide asked him whether he heard the question.
After about 30 seconds, McConnell appeared to snap back to reality and took two additional questions. A rep for the senator also chalked up the bizarre moment to lightheadedness soon after it happened.
It was the second time he froze — McConnell had previously trailed off and assumed a blank stare for about 20 seconds when speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in July.AP
Although McConnell’s exact condition hasn’t been confirmed, two leading theories in the medical community is that symptoms of that nature stem from either from a partial seizure or a mini stroke.
Dr. Lee Schwamm, a professor of biomedical informatics and data sciences at Yale School of Medicine who has not treated the senator, suggested to The Post that the most plausible theory is a partial complex seizure, which can be caused by prior brain trauma — like a concussion.
“He doesn’t lose balance. He doesn’t fall over. He freezes .. His hands are gripping the lectern but if you look at his face, you’ll see his eyes deviate to the right,” explained Schwamm, who also suggested that the recurring nature of the incidents could mean that McConnell has partial epilepsy.
Dr. Steven Giannotta, chair and professor of neurological surgery at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, who also has not seen McConnell, explained that a transient ischemic attack, widely known as a “mini-stroke,” is not unheard of in the aged.
However, Schwamm cautioned, the recurring nature of the freezing incidents made TIA less of a possibility.
“I do think that TIA or warning stroke was definitely legitimately in the differential diagnosis with the first spell [in July],” he said. “With this second time of the spell happening and especially with the eye movement changes that we saw — that makes it much less likely.”