McConnell Breaks Silence on Freeze Incident

Jackson Richman
By Jackson Richman
September 6, 2023Politicsshare
McConnell Breaks Silence on Freeze Incident
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to freeze up for more than 30 seconds during a public appearance after an event with the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in Covington, Ky., on Aug. 30, 2023, in a still image from video. (ABC Affiliate WCPO via Reuters)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told The Epoch Times on Sept. 6 that he was feeling “fine” following a second “freezing” incident” that incited questions about his medical status.

Mr. McConnell told a reporter for The Epoch Times, “I’m doing fine,” on Capitol Hill just before his leader remarks to the upper chamber of Congress. The senate leader also commented on calls for him to step down, telling the journalist, “We’ll have a stakeout this afternoon,” referencing an upcoming press conference.

Both parties are expected to hold their press conferences following their weekly policy lunches later in the day. The issue of Mr. McConnell’s health is one that has been at the forefront of many lawmakers’ conversations recently, though he declined to say whether he would be addressing his health while talking to reporters.

Physicians’ Assessment of McConnell

One day after Mr. McConnell froze in front of reporters, Congressional Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan said that the senator was cleared to continue on his current schedule. In this second on-camera episode, he was unresponsive to questions from reporters for about 30 seconds. It comes several months after he suffered a fall in March that resulted in a concussion.

“I have consulted with Leader McConnell and conferred with his neurology team. After evaluating yesterday’s incident, I have informed Leader McConnell that he is medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned,” Dr. Monahan’s statement (pdf) read.

The doctor explained that “Occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration.”

A Sept. 5 letter to Mr. McConnell from Dr. Monahan further clarified that he did not suffer a seizure when he froze up in front of reporters: “My examination of you following your Aug. 30, 2023, brief episode included several medical evaluations: brain MRI imaging, EEG study, and consultations with several neurologists for a comprehensive neurology assessment,” wrote Dr. Monahan.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is also a physician, called the health assessment into question, telling a group of reporters Tuesday, “I’ve practiced medicine for 25 years, and it doesn’t look like dehydration to me. It looks like a focal neurologic event.

“That doesn’t mean it’s incapacitating, doesn’t mean he can’t serve,” the lawmaker continued. “But it means that somebody ought to wake up and say, ‘Wow, this looks like a seizure.’”

Public Support From Both Parties

Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) said, according to The Hill, that he fully supports Mr. McConnell continuing as leader, a sentiment shared by several Republican senators, but the South Dakota Republican declined to speculate on Mr. McConnell’s future beyond the upcoming election.

Mr. Thune reported this week that he had “a couple of conversations” with Mr. McConnell, 81, adding that Mr. McConnell “sounded great.”

After a work lunch later in the week, he said Mr. McConnell “will have an opportunity to address colleagues” about his health and other concerns.

When asked whether he would support Mr. McConnell continuing as a leader beyond the next election, Mr. Thune stated, “That’s so far out there I don’t even want to start speculating about that, but he has my full support, and he’ll have the support of the conference.”

The Aug. 30 incident occurred just over a month after Mr. McConnell suddenly stopped speaking while taking questions from reporters during his weekly press conference in the Capitol. During that incident, he remained silent for approximately 20 seconds before being escorted out of the press conference.

Moments later, Mr. McConnell said that the Kentucky gubernatorial race in November would be “close” and that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the Republican nominee, is the best one whom the GOP could have put up. The state’s governor, Andy Beshear, is up for reelection.

Mr. McConnell answered one last question about former President Donald Trump’s latest indictment. He said he wouldn’t comment on the former president, who has been indicted four times, or on the 2024 presidential race.

An aide later told The Epoch Times that Mr. McConnell “felt momentarily lightheaded” and paused during his press conference: “While he feels fine, as a prudential measure, the leader will be consulting a physician prior to his next event.”

Mr. McConnell, a childhood polio survivor, had a concussion and broke his ribs after falling at an event in March. He was hospitalized and, following therapy, returned to the Senate the following month.

Later on Wednesday, the minority leader was photographed at an event with Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who is running for Senate in Indiana.

President Joe Biden said on Aug. 31 that he is not worried about Mr. McConnell’s capacity to serve: “I spoke to him today. He was his old self on the telephone,” the president told reporters at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters.

When asked if he had doubts about Mr. McConnell’s leadership abilities, he responded, “No, I don’t.”

President Biden, who will turn 81 in November, has worked with Mr. McConnell, also 81, for decades, beginning with their tenure in the Senate.

From The Epoch Times

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