Joe Biden asks if dead congresswoman Jackie Walorski is in crowd

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President Joe Biden thought the late Republican politician Jackie Walorski was still alive because she was “top of mind” for him as he prepares to meet her family, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed to the incredulity of the press corps.

The Biden administration’s regular briefing later devolved into chaos as reporters pressed Ms Jean-Pierre to address the 79-year-old President’s mental health, the New York Post reports.

Mr Biden made the gaffe on Wednesday at a nutrition event in Washington D.C, saying, “Jackie – are you here? Where’s Jackie?” despite the fact that he publicly mourned Indiana representative Ms Walorski’s death in a car crash last month – and even lowered the White House’s flags for two days in her memory.

Ms Jean-Pierre gave almost identical answers when asked about the stunning remark by reporters from ABC, CNN, CBS and The Washington Post.

The questions grew increasingly pointed as the press secretary said nine times that Ms Walorski was simply “top of mind” for Mr Biden – without saying why the President thought she was alive.

Steven Portnoy of CBS News Radio – the third reporter to raise the topic after ABC’s Cecilia Vega and CNN’s Phil Mattingly – asked Ms Jean-Pierre, “Was the President confused? Was something written in the teleprompter that he didn’t recognise?”

“I’m trying to find out what happened here,” Portnoy added.

“You’re jumping to a lot of conclusions … If that had been the case, I would have stated that,” Ms Jean-Pierre said, adding, “What I said was that she was on top of mind and that he’s going to see her family in just two days’ time.”

Portnoy followed up, asking Ms Jean-Pierre if the White House would release Mr Biden’s prepared script so people could understand how the error occurred. The press secretary answered that she didn’t understand “what that has to do with anything”.

“I just answered the question about her being top of mind,” Ms Jean-Pierre added. “I don’t think that’s unusual. I feel like many of us have gone through that particular time where someone is on top of mind and you call them out.”

Other reporters kept up the pressure, with Matt Viser of The Washington Post telling Ms Jean-Pierre, “The confusing part is, why if [Ms Walorski] and the family are top of mind does the President think she’s living and in the room?”

“I don’t find that confusing,” Ms Jean-Pierre insisted.

“I mean, I think many people can speak to sometimes when we have someone top of mind, they’re top of mind – exactly that … It happened at an event where we were calling out the champions, congressional champions in particular, of this issue.”

At that point, Newsmax reporter James Rosen said, “Karine, I have John Lennon top of mind just about every day, but I’m not looking around for him anywhere.”

“When you sign a bill for John Lennon as President, then we can have this conversation,” the press secretary shot back.

EWTN reporter Owen Jensen, meanwhile, interjected by shouting, “Why not just apologise?”

Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett took up the matter and insisted on a straight answer.

“These moments of confusion are happening with increased frequency. Americans are watching this and they’re having concerns. What do you say to that?” Halkett said.

“This is a legitimate question. We need to have some answers.”

Ms Jean-Pierre ignored that question and called on a different reporter to ask a question. “I’m sorry, somebody was yelling,” the press secretary said.

Halkett persisted, shouting, “We were asking about the mental acuity of the President.”

“It is not your turn to speak and you’re being rude to your colleagues,” Ms Jean-Pierre snapped, refusing to engage in the direct question about Mr Biden’s mental health.

“You might be being rude to us by not answering the question,” Halkett countered.

“You’re yelling over your colleague, so that is incredibly rude,” Ms Jean-Pierre countered.

“Can we have an answer to the substantive question here, though?” a NY Post reporter asked.

“Top of mind is not an answer,” Halkett added before dropping her attempted line of inquiry.

Ms Jean-Pierre and her aides routinely ask journalists to submit topics for briefing questions in advance and regularly avoid calling on certain outlets that do not do so.

Although Republicans, including former president Donald Trump, allege that Mr Biden is in mental decline, Democrats note that he’s struggled with public misstatements for decades.

“I am a gaffe machine,” Mr Biden conceded in 2018. “But my God, what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth.”

Since taking office, Mr Biden has repeatedly told false or factually dubious stories.

In January, Mr Biden told students at historically black colleges in Atlanta that he was arrested during civil rights protests – for which there is no evidence.

Mr Biden in September 2021 told Jewish leaders that he remembered “spending time at” and “going to” the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh after the mass murder of 11 people there in 2018. The synagogue said he never visited and the White House later said he was thinking about a 2019 phone call to the synagogue’s rabbi.

Also last September, Mr Biden told an Idaho audience that his “first job offer” came from local lumber and wood products business Boise Cascade. The company said it was news to them and Mr Biden had not previously described an interest in moving to the state.

And In May, Mr Biden said at the Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony that he was appointed to the military school in 1965 by the late Delaware Senator J. Caleb Boggs. A search of Mr Boggs’ archives failed to turn up evidence of the appointment.

This article originally appeared on NY Post and was reproduced with permission

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