White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sidestepped and at times grew heated Tuesday during a line of questioning regarding President Biden’s repeated public falls.
During her daily press briefing with the White House press pool, a reporter asked KJP about the 80-year-old president’s on-stage fall Thursday after handing out the last diploma during 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.
The reporter, during Tuesday’s briefing, then seemed to recall how Biden slightly stumbled down a flight of stairs on his way to a photo shoot with G-7 leaders in Hiroshima. Reuters video of the moment shows Biden regain his balance without falling and then shaking hands with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last month.
“I was struck particularly by the incident on May 19 in Hiroshima, where the president descended down a set of stone steps toward a shrine at the bottom of which steps he was greeted by the Japanese prime minister,” the reporter added.
“And if you look at that footage, the president slipped and caught himself on those steps. 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 continued. “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.
“You know, here’s what I will say. This is a president, you know, that has had an incredibly impressive first two years. When you think about what he’s been able to get done,” she added. “When you think about the record historic pieces of legislation that are now into law, he just went into — went into it with the different pieces of legislation that’s actually going to make a difference and change Americans’ lives. Americans who truly need it, and that’s, I think, is what the American people are looking for.
“They’re looking for someone that can actually deliver like the — like the president has done,” the press secretary said of Biden, who announced late April he will seek re-election in 2024.
Jean-Pierre continued by referencing last week’s debt ceiling negotiations in Congress.
“And even last week, when you think about the budget negotiations, you heard — you heard from — 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 — 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 posed.
“Isn’t that what it’s important? As a reporter, don’t you think it’s important what Americans care about?” Jean-Pierre shot back. “I’m just saying that is something that Americans want. Isn’t that not true, that — that they have a leader that’s going to deliver for them?”
“Your proposition may or may not be true, but it’s not responsive to my question,” the reporter replied.
“I think it’s very true. No, I know what your question is,” Jean-Pierre said, placing her binder beneath one arm while further posturing to leave. “You’re asking me if we’re going to change anything from here — the chief of staff has asked for it to change anything from here. And, and here’s the thing. Here’s the thing. We are not.
“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.