Mitch McConnell appears to freeze again while talking to reporters

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: The Washington Post
August 30, 2023 at 14:42
Senator Mitch McConnell froze yet again mid-sentence while addressing the media -- marking a second frightening episode like this that he's suffered in public.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) leaves Capitol Hill on July 27. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) leaves Capitol Hill on July 27. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to freeze for several seconds Wednesday while taking questions from journalists in an incident that mirrored another occasion when he abruptly stopped speaking in late July.

McConnell took questions from reporters in Covington, Ky., after talking with a local group there. At one point, he asked a reporter to clarify his question.

“Running for reelection in 2026,” the journalist replied, according to video of the incident.

McConnell, 81, chuckled and said, “Oh, that’s, uhh —” Then he paused for about seven seconds before an aide walked to his side and asked him if he had heard the question.

McConnell continued to stare straight ahead, and the aide asked reporters to give them a minute.

Another aide then walked over and spoke to McConnell, who signaled that he was fine. Then McConnell cleared his throat, said “Okay,” and continued to take questions. His sentences were stilted as he answered.

In total, the minority leader was silent for more than 20 seconds.

“Leader McConnell felt momentarily lightheaded and paused during his press conference today,” a spokesman for McConnell said in a statement afterward.

An aide to the senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private details, said McConnell would consult a doctor before his next event “as a prudential measure.”

McConnell’s staff also cited lightheadedness after he froze for about 20 seconds while making opening remarks at a Senate leadership news conference in July. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who were by his side that day, asked whether he was all right, but McConnell did not respond.

Barrasso suggested that McConnell take a break and guided him away from the podium. The minority leader returned several minutes later and after the news conference was asked by reporters what had happened. He said simply that he was “fine.”

Asked Wednesday whether President Biden was aware of the latest freezing incident, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration wished McConnell a speedy recovery.

“As you know, the two of them are — have worked together and have known each other for some time,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. “But I can’t speak to a call or a conversation. I just haven’t asked the president about that.”

Kentucky law would require Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, to appoint a Republican successor if McConnell were to leave office. But Beshear declined to answer a question this month about whether he would do so, saying there was no indication McConnell would step down.

“There’s not going to be a vacancy,” he told Politico. “That would be total speculation.”

McConnell fell and suffered a concussion and a broken rib at a private dinner at a Washington hotel in early March. The Kentucky Republican was absent from the Senate for nearly six weeks as he recovered from his injuries. He returned to the Senate in April.

Mariana Alfaro and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.

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