Every Excuse Team Biden Has Used for His Nightmare Debate

During the first 2024 debate last week, President Joe Biden looked fatigued, sounded hoarse, and failed to complete his thoughts several times. Halfway through the debate, NBC News reported that “sources familiar with the situation say ‘President Biden has a cold.’”

Since then, Biden, his campaign, and allies have offered a series of excuses for his performance — none of which explain what Americans witnessed that evening: an 81-year-old man visibly in decline.

A CBS News poll conducted after the debate found that 72 percent of registered voters believe Biden does not have the mental and cognitive health to be president of the United States.

At a fundraiser in Virginia on Tuesday, Biden suggested he had been jet-lagged during the showdown with Donald Trump. Biden said he “wasn’t very smart,” according to pool reports, claiming he “decided to travel around the world a couple times, going through I don’t know how many time zones — for real I think it [was] 15 time zones.”

“And then I came back and nearly fell asleep on stage,” said Biden, referring to his debate performance, adding: “It’s not an excuse but an explanation.”

Reporters quickly pushed back on this supposed explanation. “The president was back from Europe 12 days before the debate and spent a week at Camp David preparing for it,” wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has called on Biden to withdraw from the race. “I don’t know what happened in the debate, but it wasn’t jet lag.”

In private, Politico reported, Biden’s family has blamed his staff for failing to appropriately prepare him to face Trump — arguing they had him too focused on defending his record, and that he was over-worked and hadn’t rested enough. (According to the Times, Biden didn’t start debate prep before 11 a.m. and “was given time for an afternoon nap each day.”)

Over the weekend, one of the president’s top allies, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), similarly blamed his performance on “preparation overload,” before suggesting Biden’s stutter was the reason he struggled to complete his thoughts last week.

“Joe Biden has a history of stuttering,” Clyburn said on CNN. “He did that as a child. All of us know how stutterers operate. I went to school with one. So, when you have trouble getting out a word, that is what comes from stuttering. But when he expressed opinions, he was on the money with the opinions. He may not have gotten the word out, but the thoughts were great.”

Clyburn additionally panned CNN for failing to fact check Trump. “The guy told 30-some-odd lies, and nobody checked him on it and said that was up to Joe Biden to do,” he said.

The Biden campaign has criticized reporters for how they covered his performance on stage. In one fundraising email, the campaign said that the media was “hyperventilating and trying to manifest drama to boost ratings.”

In an email to journalists, the campaign suggested that if polling results turned more negative after the debate — which appears to be happening — blame should fall on the media.

“If we do see changes in polling in the coming weeks, it will not be the first time that overblown media narratives have driven temporary dips in the polls,” the campaign wrote.

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