White House fights back against doubts on Biden fitness

5978b130-3d73-11ef-96a8-e710c6bfc866 White House fights back against doubts on Biden fitness

The White House has fought back against questions about Joe Biden’s mental fitness, with the president himself dismissing the concerns of fellow Democrats and daring his doubters during a phone call to a news programme to challenge him.

In a tense news conference, the president’s spokeswoman rejected suggestions that he might be suffering from an undisclosed illness.

Mr Biden, 81, himself told MSNBC after calling into its morning show: “I am not going anywhere.”

Questions about the president’s mental acuity have intensified since a poor debate performance against Donald Trump on 27 June.

In Monday’s daily press conference, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre rejected speculation that Mr Biden was being treated for Parkinson’s disease.

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

An expert on Parkinson’s disease from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington DC has visited the White House eight times since last year, the New York Times reports.

But Ms Jean-Pierre would not comment on the matter, citing the need to protect the privacy of the doctor and security reasons.

On Monday, the president called into MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme, angrily daring critics to “announce for president, challenge me at the convention” next month or rally behind him against Trump.

In a letter sent to congressional Democrats also on Monday, Mr Biden said he “wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe” that he could beat Trump, the Republican challenger in November’s election.

Mr Biden’s letter said he had “heard the concerns that people have” and “is not blind to them”, but that Democratic voters in the primaries have “spoken clearly and decisively” that he should run.

“This was a process open to anyone who wanted to run,” Mr Biden wrote. “The voters of the Democratic Party have voted. They have chosen me to be the nominee of the party.”

“Do we now just say this process didn’t matter? That the voters don’t have a say… I decline to do that,” he added. “How can we stand for democracy in our nation if we ignore it in our own party? I cannot do that. I will not do that.”

Mr Biden’s letter comes after the Democratic minority leader in the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries, held a group call in which four congressmen were explicit in urging Mr Biden to step aside, according to US news outlets.

The quartet was joined by others who voiced concerns about Mr Biden’s fitness for office after his stumbling debate performance, but stopped short of asking for the president to exit the race.

US media reports slightly diverged on which Democratic representatives said what during the private conversation with Mr Jeffries on Sunday.

Jerry Nadler of New York, Mark Takano of California and Adam Smith of Washington state all said Mr Biden should step aside, according to multiple outlets, citing people on the call or those familiar with what was said.

Joe Morelle of New York added his voice, according to CBS and the New York Times, but the Associated Press said the fourth person was Jim Himes.

On Monday, Mr Smith publicly called for Mr Biden to quit, saying in a statement “the American people have made it clear they no longer see him as a credible candidate to serve four more years as president”.

Others on the call expressed concern about Mr Biden’s electoral chances against Trump.

Scrutiny of Mr Biden’s candidacy could pick up this week after lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill on Monday. The president will also be in the spotlight in the days ahead as he hosts a summit in Washington for leaders of Nato countries.

Long-standing questions about Mr Biden’s age escalated after last month’s televised head-to-head with Trump, in which the president stumbled over some answers or appeared to lose his train of thought.

Various explanations were offered by the Biden camp, including that the president had a cold and was exhausted by travel.

Last week, Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first Democrat in Congress to urge Mr Biden to step aside.

At least four colleagues followed suit – and later, privately, the additional four who reportedly shared their views with Mr Jeffries on Sunday.

Trump, 78, has ridiculed Mr Biden over the debate, last week labelling his rival “broken-down”. Biden allies have expressed exasperation about the criticism he is facing, while his Republican challenger was recently convicted in a New York hush-money case.

Amid mounting speculation over Mr Biden’s candidacy in November, the thoughts of some Democrats have turned to who could replace him.

Some party members have rallied around Vice-President Kamala Harris, who is Mr Biden’s running mate in November.

Another representative, Adam Schiff, has said Ms Harris could beat Trump “overwhelmingly”, although speaking to NBC News, he too stopped short of telling Mr Biden to drop out.

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

Mr Biden and his allies have spent the past few days insisting he is still up to the job of defeating Trump for a second election in a row.

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

Speaking to ABC News on Friday, the president declined to take a cognitive test and make the results public in order to reassure voters he was fit to serve another term.

“I have a cognitive test every single day,” he said. “Every day I have that test – everything I do [is a test].”

Bir yanıt yazın

E-posta adresiniz yayınlanmayacak. Gerekli alanlar * ile işaretlenmişlerdir