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BREAKING: White House Doubles Down on Biden’s Innocence and Cognitive Health

The administration has said now for a third time that Biden’s memory is just fine – but is America buying it?

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the press Friday, February 9, to highlight the work of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention and the administration’s efforts in foreign diplomacy. What she did not mention, however, was the lead story for most media outlets in America that morning – the question of the president’s cognitive health raised by the special counsel investigating him over claims that he mishandled classified documents.

She did turn over the podium to Ian Sams from the White House Office of Counsel to the President. Sams addressed the report released by special counsel Robert Hur Thursday by reiterating the point that no charges were recommended and explaining that the president cooperated with an extensive investigation. “The decision was that there was no case to be made,” Sams declared before moving on to accuse Republicans of fabricating a false narrative that there is a two-tier system in America and that President Biden had been the beneficiary of special treatment.

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(Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

The report released Thursday by special counsel Hur exonerated President Biden of any wrongdoing in the alleged mishandling of classified documents – but it also brought up his age and apparently failing memory. In the report, Hur characterized Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory.” That line sparked both a bevy of memes and multiple official responses by the Biden administration – with Friday’s press briefing being the third in less than 24 hours.

First, the White House published a letter Thursday afternoon criticizing the special counsel’s characterization of the president’s cognitive state and asking for a revision to the report. Then the president himself spoke in an impromptu event Thursday evening to declare his memory sound.

Sams did work his way around to attacking the sections of the report that “gratuitously” commented on the president’s cognitive ability, though he didn’t make the mistake of dwelling on the topic. Once reporters were allowed to ask questions, however, the president’s mental state, the validity of the report’s conclusion that Biden wasn’t guilty of anything criminal, and the apparent disparity between what Sams calls the “obvious” and correct conclusion and the allegedly “gratuitous” and “politically motivated” parts of the report leading up to it. Sams managed the worst of the questions with the skill of a master of spin. Before ending the briefing, however, Jean-Pierre took the podium back and tried to explain away and downplay the concerns over Biden’s performance.

The implications of the report’s claim about Biden’s cognitive state do not bode well, however, for his re-election campaign or his desired image as a capable leader. After a mishandled answer to one reporter’s question about Israel, in which Biden mixed up Mexico and Egypt, the internet responded with a flurry of new memes, such as a map of the region with Mexico in place of Egypt and a picture of the Sphinx wearing a sombrero.

With the report’s damning description and the president’s unfortunate gaffe following the declaration that his memory is just fine – and, really, his general performance during the late-evening speech – Biden’s opponents certainly have fodder for their own campaigns. Can the White House answer questions about the president’s mental health in a way that solves the crisis, or will further attempts by the administration only continue to make matters worse? Perhaps the far more important question, will Biden remain defiant to the claims of cognitive decline, or will he eventually bow out of the 2024 contest?

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