Mitch McConnell abruptly stops mid-sentence during press conference


The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, briefly left his own press conference on Wednesday after stopping his remarks mid-sentence and staring off into space for several seconds.

McConnell approached the podium for his weekly press conference and began speaking about the annual defense bill on the floor, which he said was proceeding with “good bipartisan cooperation”. But he then appeared to lose his train of thought, trailing off with a drawn-out “uh”.

He then appeared to “freeze” and stared for about 20 seconds before his colleagues in the Republican leadership, who were standing behind him and could not see his face, took his elbows and asked if he wanted to go back to his office.

Asked about what happened, McConnell said he was “fine”. He did not elaborate.

A McConnell aide said he felt light-headed and stepped away for a moment. The aide requested anonymity to speak about the senator’s health.

McConnell, 81, was out of the Senate for almost six weeks earlier this year after falling and hitting his head. His office later said he suffered a concussion and fractured a rib. His speech has recently sounded more halting, prompting questions among some of his colleagues about his health.

After the press conference, Barrasso told reporters that he “wanted to make sure everything was fine” and walked McConnell down the hall.

Barrasso said he has been concerned since McConnell was injured earlier this year, “and I continue to be concerned”.

But when asked about his particular concerns, Barrasso said: “I said I was concerned when he fell and hit his head a number of months ago and was hospitalized. And I think he’s made a remarkable recovery, he’s doing a great job leading our conference and was able to answer every question the press asked him today.”

Walking out of his office on Wednesday evening, McConnell told reporters that he was fine and that the president called to check on him after the incident.

“The president called to check up on me and I told him I got sandbagged,” McConnell joked, referencing a quote from Joe Biden in June after he tripped over a sandbag and fell while onstage at the US Air Force Academy graduation.

First elected to the Senate in 1984, McConnell became the longest-serving Senate party leader in history in January. He was easily re-elected to his leadership post that same month, despite a challenge from Senator Rick Scott of Florida.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who is also seen as a potential candidate to succeed McConnell, told reporters after the episode: “I support Senator McConnell as long as he wants to serve as leader.”

McConnell had polio in his early childhood and he has long acknowledged some difficulty as an adult in climbing stairs. In addition to his fall in March, he also tripped and fell four years ago at his home in Kentucky, causing a shoulder fracture that required surgery.

Source: The Guardian