White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre faced intense questioning from reporters on Tuesday about President Joe Biden’s struggles following a challenging debate performance, including direct inquiries about whether he would undergo a neurological scan.

Biden has been under increasing scrutiny since his debate with former President Donald Trump last Thursday. During the debate, the 81-year-old, with a voice raspy from an apparent cold, struggled to maintain his train of thought. Recent polls show that 72% of Americans do not believe Biden has the “mental and cognitive health to be president” and suggest other Democrats might be stronger candidates against Trump. On Tuesday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) became the first sitting Democrat in Congress to publicly call for Biden to withdraw from the race.

During the Tuesday afternoon press briefing, Jean-Pierre acknowledged that Biden had a poor debate performance but emphasized the importance of his “performance in a presidency,” rather than “performance in terms of a debate.” A reporter pointed out criticisms from other Democrats, noting that Biden’s struggles were not just due to a cold but included moments where he had “no answers,” was “trailing off,” and “didn’t answer some questions” fully. The reporter asked if there had been “any consideration given to releasing a more robust set of medical records or something to show his mental acuity.”

Jean-Pierre responded that it was a “fair question to ask” and insisted that the White House had “been transparent” by releasing “reports from his medical team” every year he has been in office. She added that his medical team had said a cognitive test was “not warranted in this case” and “not necessary.”

“Again, we understand,” she continued. “We’re not taking away from what you all saw, what the American people saw. We understand it was a bad night. It is not uncommon for incumbents to have a bad night on their first debate. And we are going to continue to do the work that we have been doing on behalf of the American people. I think the president’s record certainly speaks for itself.”

CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang asked about Biden’s cold and what medications he was taking during the days and hours leading up to the debate. Jean-Pierre said they had been asked that question “a couple of times,” but Biden was “not taking any cold medication,” adding that she had asked the president’s doctor.

“After the debate, did the president get examined by a doctor or did he get a neurological scan?” Jiang asked.

“A neurological scan?” Jean-Pierre repeated, apparently taken aback by the question, before continuing. “Look, what I can say is that, just to take a step back, it was a bad night,” she said. “We understand that it was a bad night, and the president has spoken to this, and he understands that, and so I cannot speak to anything beyond what I just shared.”

She reiterated that Biden has “regular annual physicals” that the White House releases and would continue to release them. The last time he was seen by a doctor was in February, and she didn’t have “anything else” to add.

Jiang followed up by asking what the “explanation” was for “why it was so bad,” if it wasn’t a problem with his mental fitness.

“If it’s not a problem with his mental fitness, what happened that night?” Jiang asked. “What did we see?”

Jean-Pierre replied that Biden had spoken about this, saying, “He said, I’m not as smooth as I used to be. I don’t debate as well as I used to. I don’t walk as easily as I used to,” but what he does know “is how to deliver for the American people,” and while “he understands that he’s not a young man, obviously,” his “focus” would continue to be “to deliver for the American people on the issues that they care about.”



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