White House Hits Back at Republicans Over Biden’s Juneteenth ‘Freeze’

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

The White House hit back at Republicans after footage of President Joe Biden appearing to freeze during a White House Juneteenth event stoked attacks and renewed claims that at 81, the president is too old for a second term in office.

In a statement, White House senior deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said Republicans were “falsely claim[ing] someone who never stops moving in a clip ‘froze’ because they simply weren’t dancing. There are others in the video doing the same.”

In the footage, taken during a performance by gospel singer Kirk Franklin on Monday night, Biden stood still as those around him, including Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, first gentleman Doug Emhoff, danced and clapped to the music.

After Biden turned slightly, Philonise Floyd, the brother of the murdered Minneapolis man George Floyd, placed an arm round the president's shoulder, eliciting a fist bump and a smile while exchanging words. Biden stood still for around 30 seconds, either side of his interaction with Floyd.

Among Republican attacks, Donald Trump’s campaign said on social media: “Lights are on but no one’s home.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) tried to make a point about immigration policy when he posted: “Just an ordinary day in the life of Joe Biden. While Rome was burning, Nero played the fiddle. While America was being invaded, Biden did … whatever he’s doing in this video.”

Later, during his remarks, Biden slurred a few words. The president has long suffered from, and widely discussed, a stutter.

Regardless, the Republican National Committee shared footage it said showed Biden “shuffl[ing] off into the night following his exceptionally embarrassing display of cognitive deficiency.”

Bates called the RNC “one of the most fact-checked groups in politics,” adding: “We hope they get the support they need.”

Biden is already the oldest president ever inaugurated. If he wins re-election in November he will be 82 at the start of his second term next year.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published a long and controversial report about Biden’s age and fitness for office.

Amid angry pushback from Democrats and Biden allies, Michael LaRosa, a former aide to first lady Jill Biden, told The Daily Beast the White House and Biden campaign were handling the issue wrong.

“I just don’t know if constantly complaining, and whining, and attacking the legacy media, or the media in general, is a winning strategy at this point,” LaRosa said.

In polling, majorities say Biden is too old for a second term.

Similar age-related concerns surround his opponent in this year’s rematch election, Donald Trump, who will turn 78 on Friday. On Monday, as Biden attended the White House Juneteenth concert, Trump was meeting with his probation officer after his conviction on 34 felony counts in New York.

Trump’s own campaign-trail moments of meandering speeches and apparent confusion have stoked widespread discussion about his own fitness for office, not least after a rally in Las Vegas on Sunday when he went on a nonsensical rant about electrocution and sharks.

Footage of Biden at the Juneteenth event on Monday reminded many of recent moments in which Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, appeared to freeze in front of reporters.

The Kentucky senator, now 82, has dismissed concerns about his fitness for office, though he did announce that he will step down as leader at the end of the year.

Biden issued supportive remarks towards McConnell, a long-term rival with whom the president served more than 20 years in the Senate.

Representatives for McConnell did not immediately respond to a comment request on Tuesday.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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