Biden defends ‘friend’ Mitch McConnell after second ‘freezing’ spell raises concerns for his health

Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze at a press conference in Kentucky in August 2023 (Twitter: WLWT)

President Joe Biden defended his friend Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a press conference on Thursday, saying that his second “freezing” spell was “not at all unusual” for someone recovering from severe concussion.

On Wednesday, Senator McConnell froze for the second time this summer in front of reporters during a news conference for approximately 30 seconds when asked if he would run for re-election in 2026.

Aides tried to prompt the 81-year-old lawmaker who took several more seconds to compose himself. He then answered two more questions.

Nevertheless, donors and fellow Republicans were quick to voice concerns about whether the Senate’s most senior Republican — who has represented Kentucky since 1985 — has serious health issues.

The president, who is 80 years old himself, told reporters gathered at the offices of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that he had spoken with Mr McConnell and that he seemed like his “old self” over the phone.

“I spoke to Mitch. He’s a friend and I spoke to him today. And, you know, he was his old self on the telephone,” Mr Biden said. “And one of the leading women on my staff, her husband’s a neurosurgeon as well. 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,” the president concluded.

Later in the day, Senator McConnell was told he is free to continue with his schedule by the Office of the Attending Physician at Congress.

The office has “informed Leader McConnell that he is 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,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

After the incident in Covington, Kentucky, on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the senator said: “Leader McConnell felt momentarily lightheaded and paused during his press conference today.”

Mr McConnell spent a week in hospital after he fell outside a Washington DC hotel in March, suffering a concussion and broken rib. He then spent time in a rehabilitation facility before returning to work in the US Senate in April.

His first “freezing” incident took place during a press conference at the US Capitol on 26 July.