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White House insists Biden is healthy, discusses cognitive testing

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre held an at times testy conference with reporters on Monday, where she discussed neurological testing that President Biden underwent earlier in the year.
President Joe Biden
Posted at 5:03 PM, Jul 08, 2024

The White House pushed back on continued concerns over President Biden's health Monday, following a report that a Parkinson's specialist had made repeated visits to the White House over the course of eight months.

On Monday, The New York Times reported Dr. Kevin Cannard, a neurologist who works at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, had made eight visits to the White House over the course of eight months, according to visitor logs.

The White House initially declined to confirm the identity of the neurologist or purpose for the visit, but a memo from the President’s physician later released stated the neurologist noted on the visitor log holds regular neurology clinics to support active duty members assigned White House operations.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre held an at times testy conference with reporters on Monday afternoon, in which she declined to directly address the specifics of Cannard's visits, but did discuss a test regimen that President Biden underwent earlier in the year.

“Has the president been treated for Parkinson's? No. Is he being treated for Parkinson's? No. He's not. Is he taking medication for Parkinson's? No. So those are the things I can give you full blown answers on, but I'm not going to confirm a specialist, any specialist, that comes to the White House,” Jean-Pierre said.

The same neurologist saw Biden as part of his annual physicals, according to the memo.

A memo from his physician summarizing his health in February following this year’s physical states “An extremely detailed neurologic exam was again reassuring in that there were no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis, nor are there any signs of cervical myelopathy.”

Biden has repeatedly pointed to his record and day-to-day duties when pressed if he would take a cognitive test.

“I have a cognitive test every single day,” the president told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last week. “Every day I have that test. Everything I do. You know, not only am I campaigning, but I’m running the world.”

Regarding the possibility of new cognitive tests, Jean-Pierre said "it is not warranted. The president himself, he said it today, he said it multiple times. And the doctor has said this. Everything [President Biden] does day in and day out, as it relates to delivering for the American people, is a cognitive test."

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby told reporters at the same conference that allies were not concerned about President Biden's health, as he prepares to meet with some of them at the NATO summit, starting on July 9 in Washington, D.C.

"In my experience, the last two and a half years, I have not seen any reason whatsoever to question or doubt [President Biden's] lucidity, his grasp of context, his probing nature and the degree to which he is completely in charge of facts and figures," Kirby said.

In recent days, President Biden, his White House and many Democratic figures have forcefully reiterated that he is committed to remaining in the 2024 presidential race and seeing the election through.

Related story: Biden sends letter to Congress stating he's 'firmly committed' to staying in the race

In a two-page letter sent to Congressional Democrats Monday morning, the president said he is “firmly committed” to staying in the race as more Democratic leaders have called for him to step aside following his lackluster debate performance.

As the incumbent, President Biden is the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee. It is expected he will receive the party's nomination during the Democratic National Convention, which starts Aug. 19 in Chicago.