White House spars with press over Parkinson’s specialist visits, Biden’s health

White House spars with press over Parkinson’s specialist visits, Biden’s health

The White House on Monday tangled with reporters during heated exchanges over whether the administration had been forthcoming about President Biden’s health in the wake of a disastrous debate performance that has sparked calls from some Democrats for Biden to end his reelection bid.

Reporters grilled press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a press briefing over reports that indicated visitor logs showed a neurologist specializing in Parkinson’s disease was at the White House eight times over an eight month period, including for a meeting with presidential physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor.

They also took issue with Jean-Pierre’s evolving explanation around whether Biden met with a doctor before and after his debate on June 27, when the president frequently struggled to complete his thoughts and looked on with his mouth agape as former President Trump spoke. Aides at the time blamed Biden’s raspy voice on a cold.

Monday’s briefing was dominated by questions sparked by the report on the Parkinson’s doctor’s visit and whether it involved consultations with or about the president.

In response, Jean-Pierre was adamant about not naming the specialist, Dr. Kevin Cannard, even though his name was on a public log of visitors to the White House, citing privacy and security questions.

While answering one of the questions, Jean-Pierre was met with a chorus of reporters who pushed back on her response.

“We’re miffed around here about how information has been shared with the press corps around here,” CBS News correspondent Ed O’Keefe said, pressing Jean-Pierre about whether Biden was seen by the expert in Parkinson’s disease.

“It doesn’t matter how hard you push me, it doesn’t matter how angry you get with me, I’m not going to confirm a name,” Jean-Pierre said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s even in the log. I’m not going to do that from here. What I can share with you is the president has seen a neurologist for his physical three times.”

She told reporters Biden is not being treated for Parkinson’s and is not taking medication for the disease. She also cited his February physical, during which his personal physician found Biden was fit for duty and wrote that a neurological exam found no evidence of Parkinson’s, stroke, or other condition.

Reporters also expressed frustration over the lack of clarity in the days after the June 27 debate as to whether Biden had seen a doctor for the cold he had during his halting performance either before or after the debate.

Last Wednesday, Jean-Pierre responded “no” when asked if Biden had any kind of medical exam. She also said “no” when asked if the president had any medical exams since his last annual physical in February.

But last Friday, Jean-Pierre told reporters Biden had a “verbal check-in” when asked about reports that surfaced indicating Biden told a group of governors he had a checkup. During an ABC News interview later that evening, Biden alluded to having taken a COVID test and being checked for an infection, which were both negative. He did not specify during the interview when those exams took place but said doctors told him he merely had a bad cold.

Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller opened Monday’s briefing by asking Jean-Pierre about the “credibility of this White House in talking about the president’s health.”

Jean-Pierre said she “did not mean to steer anybody wrong” and suggested she was not incorrect in saying Biden did not have a “medical exam.”

She also took issue with the tone of the briefing at times, saying she “took offense” to those who suggested she was being intentionally misleading.

“I appreciate the back-and-forth that we all have. I try to respect you, and I hope you try to respect me. And we literally do everything that we can … to make sure that we get the answers to you,” she said.

NBC News correspondent Kelly O’Donnell, who also serves as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, told Jean-Pierre the press corps was “seeking clarity” amid broader questions about the president’s health as he seeks reelection.

“Part of the reason we are pressing here is that we are not clear on what has happened, and therefore the American people to whom we report don’t have a sense of it,” she said.

Questions about Biden’s health have dominated coverage of his campaign amid the fallout stemming from Biden’s debate with Trump. Several elected Democrats have urged Biden to step aside as the nominee, citing concerns about his electability and whether he can campaign vigorously enough to defeat Trump in November.

Biden and his top aides have been defiant, saying he has no intention of dropping out of the race. In a “Morning Joe” interview on MSNBC earlier Monday, Biden dared those in the party who wanted him out of the race to challenge him at next month’s convention.

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