Doctor Says Biden ‘Fit for Duty’ After Physical, But No Cognitive Screening

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
February 29, 2024Politics
Doctor Says Biden ‘Fit for Duty’ After Physical, But No Cognitive Screening
President Joe Biden steps off Marine One upon arrival on the South Lawn of the White House on Dec. 16, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden’s physician gave him a clean bill of health following his annual check-up on Wednesday but left questions about the president’s mental fitness untouched.

Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the presidential physician, provided a written summary of the physical on Wednesday. The doctor identified no new concerns with President Biden’s physical health since his last check-up on Feb. 16, 2023, and insisted the president continues to be fit to serve without any special exemptions or accommodations.

“President Biden is a healthy, active, robust 81-year-old male, who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency, to include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander in Chief,” Dr. O’Connor concluded his summary of the physical.

Dr. O’Connor’s summary provided updates on the president’s basic physical attributes, like his height and weight, and vitals, like his heart rate and respiration. The doctor also addressed the president’s visual and dental health.

The doctor noted previously identified medical conditions, including acid reflux, seasonal allergies, sleep apnea, a stiffened gait attributed to spinal arthritis, a previously broken foot, and neuropathy in the president’s feet. The doctor said these medical conditions remained stable.

Dr. O’Connor also revealed a routine skin cancer surveillance, noting the president has previously had skin cancers removed. The doctor identified no new signs of potentially cancerous skin conditions.

Doctor Didn’t Screen Biden’s Cognitive Health

While Dr. O’Connor provided a routine update on the president’s basic physical health and previously identified health conditions, he left questions about his memory and cognitive function unanswered.

The octogenarian president’s mental state has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks after Special Counsel Robert Hur alleged the president had multiple memory lapses during a two-day investigative interview.

Mr. Hur, who was tasked with investigating President Biden’s handling of classified, indicated in his investigative report that the president couldn’t accurately recall key biographical details about his life, such as the years his term as vice president began and ended, nor could the president recall “even within several years” when his son Beau Biden had died.

Mr. Hur concluded that there was evidence President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified information but declined to seek any criminal charges, stating that the president’s advanced age and “poor memory” could create reasonable doubt among jurors tasked with assessing the intentionality behind the president’s handling of those sensitive documents.

President Biden held a press conference on the same day Mr. Hur’s findings were made public, insisting, “My memory is fine.” Later, during that same press conference, the president appeared to mix up the leaders of Mexico and Egypt, referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as the “president of Mexico.”

Some of President Biden’s critics have questioned his cognitive health for years. Those questions have grown in the days since Mr. Hur’s report was released, and dozens of Republicans had called for the president’s physical check-up to include “a clinically validated cognitive screening assessment” with the results to be released to the public.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre faced questions during the Wednesday press briefing as to whether President Biden took the cognitive screening. Ms. Jean-Pierre said no such official test was needed and that Dr. O’Connor agreed.

While insisting an actual clinical cognitive test was unnecessary, Ms. Jean-Pierre said President Biden “passes a cognitive test every day” through his ongoing leadership across multiple topics of national concern.

“But given that there’s been so much scrutiny, and you say there’s no problem, he would pass the test every day, why not just have his doctor administer the test and then case closed?” a reporter asked.

Ms. Jean-Pierre reiterated that such a test would be unnecessary and said the clinical cognitive screening people are describing is a 15-minute exam.

“The President has a team of doctors that is with him 24/7, and he is able to do the work every day,” she said. “That is rigorous. That is more rigorous than it would be for any 15-minute clinical appointment.”

Critics Not Convinced

President Biden’s detractors continued to question his cognitive health following his Wednesday check-up.

Appearing for an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night, Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) called the latest report on the president’s health “absolutely ridiculous.” Mr. Jackson—who previously served on the White House Medical Unit during President George W. Bush’s administration and as the presidential physician to President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump before pursuing political office—accused the Biden White House of trying to “check the box and hope we’ll move on from this.”

Mr. Jackson inverted Ms. Jean-Pierre’s argument that every day in the White House is a cognitive test for President Biden.

“She’s right,” the Texas Republican said. “Every day, he does have a cognitive test, and every day, he fails miserably.”

President Biden’s 2020 opponent and leading 2024 challenger, President Trump, also faulted the White House for not seeking the cognitive screening exam.

“Crooked Joe Biden must take a Cognitive Test. Maybe that way we would be able to find out why he makes such terrible decisions,” President Trump wrote in a post on his Truth social media account on Thursday morning.

President Trump had also seen detractors call his mental fitness into question during his time in office, and he used cognitive screenings to defend against those aspersions.

“I took two [cognitive tests], and ACED them both (no mistakes!),” President Trump’s Thursday social media post reads. “All Presidents, or people wanting to become President, should mandatorily take this test!”

While President Trump has touted his cognitive health, he did appear to have a verbal miscue, mixing up 2024 Republican primary opponent Nikki Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at a January New Hampshire rally.

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