White House fights back against doubts about Biden’s fitness

Video caption, Watch: White House Defends Biden’s Health in Fiery Press Conference

  • Author, Bernd Debusmann Jr., at the White House
  • Role, BBC news

The White House has dismissed questions about Joe Biden’s mental fitness, as the US president challenges skeptics within the party to challenge him or throw their weight behind his candidacy.

Biden, 81, made the highly unusual decision to call into a cable news program and say, “I’m not going anywhere.”

During a tense news conference, the president’s spokeswoman denied suggestions that he was suffering from an undisclosed illness.

Doubts about his mental acuity have grown since his poor performance in the debate with Donald Trump on June 27.

The attention is unlikely to wane this week as he hosts a summit of NATO leaders in Washington.

During Monday afternoon’s daily press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre denied speculation that Biden was being treated for Parkinson’s disease, a condition that can cause stiff movements and slurred speech.

“Is the president being treated for Parkinson’s?” she said. “No. Is he being treated for Parkinson’s? No.”

She was responding to a question about a New York Times report that an expert on Parkinson’s disease had visited the White House eight times since last year.

A letter released Monday night by Biden’s physician said the specialist in question, Dr. Kevin Cannard, has been a neurology consultant to the White House since 2012 and “serves thousands of active-duty members assigned to support White House operations.”

The presidential physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, also said that Biden has not seen a neurologist other than his annual physical, where he is examined by specialists from several medical disciplines.

He noted that Biden’s last medical exam, in February, was “extremely detailed” and “contained no findings suggestive of a cerebellar or other central neurological disorder.”

On Monday morning, the president called into MSNBC’s Morning Joe program and threw down the gauntlet to critics who could challenge him at next month’s convention or rally behind him against Trump.

That came after he sent an open letter to Democrats in Congress saying he “would not run again unless I was absolutely confident” he could defeat the Republican challenger in the November election.

Biden’s letter said Democratic voters in the primaries “clearly and decisively” indicated that he should be their party’s nominee.

“Are we just saying that this process didn’t matter?” the letter said. “That voters don’t have a say… I refuse to do that. How can we stand up for democracy in our country if we ignore it in our own party? I can’t do that. I won’t do that.”

Biden also called Democratic donors on Monday. A source familiar with the conversation told CBS News, the BBC’s U.S. affiliate, that the president said his strategy for the second debate against Trump in September will be “attack, attack, attack.”

Several Democrats in Congress have called for Biden’s impeachment, but on Monday night others rallied behind the beleaguered president.

Left-wing New York lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told reporters: “The case is closed. Joe Biden is our nominee.

“He’s not leaving this race. He’s in this race and I support him.”

Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Maxine Waters of California and Frank Pallone of New Jersey agreed in their support for Biden.

Earlier in the day, Adam Smith of Washington state became the sixth member of Congress to publicly urge Biden to resign.

“We need a stronger messenger,” he told the BBC, as he slammed Biden’s debate performance.

“The president was completely unable to do something that any relatively inexperienced debater should have been able to do, and it hasn’t gotten any better since then,” he added.

On Sunday, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries held a group call in which several members of Congress explicitly urged Biden to resign, according to US news organizations.

Among them are said to be Jerry Nadler of New York, Mark Takano of California, Joe Morelle of New York and Jim Himes of Connecticut.

Video caption, Democratic voters react to Biden’s ability to run

Last week, Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first Democrat in Congress to call on Biden to resign.

Trump, 78, has ridiculed Biden during the debate, calling his rival “broken” last week. Biden allies have expressed irritation at the media scrutiny he faces, while his Republican challenger was recently convicted in a hush-money case in New York.

As speculation mounts about Biden’s November candidacy, some Democrats are wondering who could replace him.

Some party members have thrown their support behind Vice President Kamala Harris, who is Biden’s running mate in November.

Trump has suggested the vice president would be “better” than Biden, but still “pathetic.”

During a pair of interviews last week, Biden acknowledged that he had “blown” the debate but later vowed that only the “Lord Almighty” could convince him to abandon his bid to win the White House again.

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