White House faces questions over Biden repeating story at fundraiser
By The Citizen on September 22, 2023
The White House on Friday sought to explain why President Biden repeated the same story to donors within a matter of minutes at a recent fundraiser, saying he was simply making clear to the crowd why he decided to run for the White House in 2019.
Two reporters asked press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a briefing about the episode during a New York City fundraiser Wednesday, when Biden explained multiple times how the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, and then-President Trump’s response to it, spurred him to run for president.
“The president was making very clear why he decided to run in 2019. He made it very clear as to what he saw in this country and what was going on,” Jean-Pierre said when asked about the repetition by Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy.
“And he got 81 million votes. A historic amount of votes from Americans across the country who believed this was a president who could help protect our democracy, get our economy back on track and could be a leader and the adult in the room,” Jean-Pierre added. “And so that’s what you saw.”
NBC News correspondent Kelly O’Donnell then asked if there was any concern that Biden would fully retell a story, while acknowledging it’s human nature to misspeak or forget.
“I’m not going to speak to comments that were made during a campaign event, but I can certainly speak to why the president is president today and why he decided to take on this job,” Jean-Pierre said.
“Sometimes I re-speak as well from here and retell a story,” she added.
“I think it’s important to note that the president was speaking, as you said, at a fundraiser. And he was speaking from his heart,” she continued. “He was speaking about why he decided to do this. And you hear the president talk about this, it’s always incredibly emotional for him.”
Jean-Pierre said she had not spoken with Biden about the issue specifically and noted she would not weigh in directly on the fundraiser because of concerns about the Hatch Act, which prohibits White House officials from weighing in on campaign matters.
A transcript of the fundraiser released by the White House showed Biden telling donors about the 2017 Charlottesville rally and how Trump’s comments that there were “very fine people” on both sides after white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters inspired his bid for the White House.
After Biden concluded that anecdote, the transcript shows him immediately talking again about the Charlottesville rally and Trump’s response to it.
Some conservatives seized on Biden’s retelling of the story as further evidence that his age is a concern and that he is not mentally sharp enough for the job. Polling has repeatedly shown that Biden’s age is a concern for a majority of voters as he seeks reelection. Biden is 80 and would be 86 at the end of a second term.
The White House has said that while it is valid for voters to consider Biden’s age, he should be judged on his ability to do the job and keep up with the day-to-day demands of the presidency.