White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sidestepped and at times grew heated Tuesday during a line of questioning regarding President Joe Biden’s repeated public falls.
During her daily press briefing with the White House press pool, a reporter asked Jean-Pierre about the 80-year-old president’s on-stage fall Thursday after handing out the last diploma at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony in Colorado.
Biden quipped that he got “sandbagged” after catching himself with his hands and walking back to his seat unassisted.
“It’s absolutely true that any one of us could trip over an object, just happens to be in our path. Nonetheless, we’ve all observed the difficulty this president has in certain settings. Steps are one of them. And, of course, there was no sandbag in his path on the steps up Air Force One or not any of those occasions,” the reporter said.
“And if you look at that footage, the president slipped and caught himself on those steps,” the reporter continued. “And as he greeted the prime minister, you could even see on the president’s face pursed lips as if to say this was a close one. And I know I watched that scene with my heart in my hands because this was a set of stone steps.”
“And even though there were handrails on either side, he was directed by his advance team, presumably, to descend at the middle of those steps unaided by the handrails, the Japanese prime minister and aide or anything else. And that could have been really catastrophic,” the reporter said. “And so, my question to you is whether this whole series of incidents has led the White House chief of staff to direct some kind of review of the advance procedures that are employed on behalf of this, the nation’s oldest president?”
“So, let me say, you’ve paid a lot of attention to that particular situation. I actually did not. … So, I, this is something that I was not aware of. So, I can’t speak to that particular, particular moment,” Jean-Pierre said in response.
President Biden falls onstage during the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony at Falcon Stadium in Colorado on June 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
“And even last week, when you think about the budget negotiations … you heard from Republicans, congressional Republicans, ranging from the right MAGA and members to Speaker McCarthy emphasize the president’s smarts and capabilities in making sure that there was a bipartisan, reasonable, commonsense piece of legislation, a fiscally responsible piece of legislation that is going to help American families,” she said.
“And so, you see him again and again and again over the past few years deliver, whether it’s 2020, where people underestimated him, and he got that done. Whether it’s 2022, again, when people were underestimating. Got that done. Whether it’s this budget agreement. He got that done. And I think that is the most important thing that the Americans are going to care about and that Americans are going to look to. … So … I will leave that there.”
As Jean-Pierre began to close her binder to leave the podium, the reporter interjected that she did not seem to answer the question.
“Things happen. Other presidents have had similar situations, as you know. And I’m sure you reported on the last president who’s had a similar situation. And so, look, things happen. This is a president that delivers and will continue to deliver for the American people. And that’s what he cares about. I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” she concluded.