Washington, September 26 (Fox News): President Biden’s campaign team is on a mission to prevent him from tripping in public as the 80-year-old continues to struggle with a diagnosis of “significant spinal arthritis.”
The White House physician made the diagnosis earlier this year, and Biden has since had multiple public tripping incidents that have only compounded questions about his age. Now, his team has made a conscious effort to make him wear tennis shoes and limit stair climbs to prevent another embarrassing fall, Axios reported Tuesday.
Biden is also undergoing physical therapy with specialist Drew Contreras, who also worked with President Barack Obama. Contreras has recommended several exercises to improve the president’s balance, the outlet reported.
Observers noted when Biden began wearing sneakers in public this summer after his nasty fall at the Air Force Academy in June. He also began boarding Air Force One via shorter stairs to a lower level, another move aimed at preventing falls.
The goal for Biden’s team is to prevent the president from taking a spill in public during election season, something that could potentially damage his campaign.
Health scares have had major impacts on several presidential campaigns, from Hillary Clinton’s fainting incident in 2016 to Bob Dole falling off a campaign stage in 1996.
A fall would be even more devastating in Biden’s case as he already faces heavy criticism over his age. In an Associated Press poll this summer, 77% said Biden is too old to be effective for four more years with 89% of Republicans taking that position along with 69% of Democrats.
Another poll from the Washington Post and ABC News this week found that 3 out of 5 Democrats would prefer someone else be the party’s 2024 nominee.
President Joe Biden
In an Associated Press poll this summer, 77% said Biden is too old to be effective for four more years with 89% of Republicans taking that position along with 69% of Democrats
White House spokesman Andrew Bates pushed back on the story in a statement to Axios.
“This article fits an unfortunate pattern of media attempting to sensationalize something that has long been public, rather than covering the president’s very real achievements for hardworking Americans,” Bates told the outlet.
Anders Hagstrom is a reporter with Fox News Digital covering national politics and major breaking news events. Send tips to Anders.Hagstrom@Fox.com, or on Twitter: @Hagstrom_Anders.
On Jauary 6, 2023 Politico reported on Biden fall on stage at an Air Force graduation.
A week that saw the president showcase his primary case for reelection also saw him exhibit a major vulnerability.
President Joe Biden had just handed out the last diploma after standing on stage for the Air Force Academy’s commencement ceremony for hours when he turned to his left and began to bound off stage, not noticing the sandbag below.
The subsequent moment — one many close to the president have privately feared — was captured on video and went viral online just a touch faster than the White House could respond.
There, plain as day, was the president tripping and falling on a stage. And there, within mere moments of the images beginning to spread on the internet, was White House communications director Ben LaBolt, taking to Twitter to downplay what happened.
“He’s fine. There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands,” LaBolt wrote in response to a video of the fall.
Biden wasn’t down for long, quickly helped up by Air Force officials. But the moment could linger in an unforgiving, highly polarized political environment in which the president, at 80 already the oldest person ever to hold the office, is seeking a second term. A week that showcased the calling cards Biden possesses (capped by a debt ceiling deal that passed the House with far more votes than expected) now also exhibited his vulnerabilities.
“I think Biden has a very credible record on which to run. The way they navigated the debt ceiling negotiation shows the value of experience,” said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “His argument about wisdom is a real argument.”
But, he continued: “This is a liability that comes with age. Incidents like these are going to be blown up. They are going to be a greater concern than it would be if he were twenty years younger. This is a burden he is going to have to overcome. This is going to be an ongoing challenge.”
Questions about Biden’s age can’t be shaken. And clips like the ones that came Thursday don’t help with the White House’s task of trying to dismiss those subterranean concerns from within the party.
Even after a successful midterm election cycle last fall, Biden’s approval rating remains stuck around 40 percent. And recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans would prefer a different Democratic candidate next year. Perhaps as much as the economy, national security or cultural issues, it is Biden’s age that could be a determining factor for voters. That’s true even if Republicans renominate former President Donald Trump, who is 76.
It’s no surprise that Republicans, eager to exploit the issue, seized on his fall immediately. The Republican National Committee and House Judiciary Committee’s Twitter accounts were among those tweeting out a video of the president stumbling to the ground and being helped up. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also tweeted the video, writing: “Open the Democrat primaries and debates. This isn’t fair to anyone.”
More telling may be how fast Biden allies inside and outside the White House quickly circled the wagons around him. A crew that prides itself on ignoring the conversation on Twitter moved swiftly on to the platform to cast the president’s fall as not all that unusual and his presence on stage during a long ceremony as a sign of stamina. Biden, former chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted, “stood on stage and shook hands with graduates for almost 2 hours. He tripped over a sandbag as he moved to greet some guests. Calm down you nervous nellies.”
Kate Bedingfield, who LaBolt replaced as communications director, tweeted a couple of times about the incident. “I know I personally have never, ever tripped over anything a day in my life, not once. I’m sure these top Democrats haven’t either. Mountain goats, these folks!” she wrote. Bedingfield also tweeted a video of Obama tripping as he came up some stairs to take the stage at a rally. “Shhhhh don’t tell ‘top Democrats.’” We all know how this worked out for President Obama’s re-elect,” she wrote.
While the rapidity and volume of Team Biden’s response may have belied their expressed nonchalance about the incident, it’s certainly true that Biden is hardly the first president to slip or fall on the job, or to absorb the broader public discussion of their health and fitness for office. President Gerald Ford, a former college athlete, was lampooned to great effect on Saturday Night Live by a constantly falling Chevy Chase after he tripped coming down the stairs from Air Force One in the rain. Ford was just 62 at the time. President George H.W. Bush also fell while bowling in Milwaukee during the 1992 campaign. And other older presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, saw their aides go to great lengths to conceal various frailties.
Trump’s slow and halting walk down a not very steep ramp following a commencement ceremony at West Point also went viral in the summer of 2020, prompting speculation about his own fitness and a bit of mockery from then-candidate Biden. Trump, seemingly aware of the potential political damage, said that the ramp had been “very long and steep” and added that “the last thing I was going to do is ‘fall’ for the Fake News to have fun with.”
Reacting to news of Biden’s fall during a campaign stop Thursday in Iowa, Trump said it was “too bad” that the president fell and “not inspiring,” while betraying a trace of self-awareness with an oblique reference to his own experience. “I hope he wasn’t hurt,” the former president said. “The whole thing is crazy, you gotta be careful about that. Because you don’t want that, even if you have to tiptoe down a ramp.”
Biden has fallen before. The most notable moment was in March 2021 when he stumbled more than once while boarding Air Force One for a flight to Atlanta. When he finally reached his cabin, he looked around and bellowed a four-letter expletive, according to a person who witnessed the moment of frustration.
Publicly, Biden advisors often say that the president’s age is irrelevant, as they tout what they say is his robust energy while also noting that voters in 2020 elected him. But Biden has physically slowed since then. His doctor has said his gait has stiffened, and the president moves more gingerly than he did before breaking his foot playing with one of his dogs during the transition.
Most people in his orbit say that Biden has not lost a step mentally, but tires more easily than he used to. They say that makes him appear frailer than he is and leads to his lifetime stutter to reappear. Aides have also taken care to not overburden his schedule. His days rarely start early and often feature down time in the middle, according to two people familiar with his routine but not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
Deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates called that “laughably untrue” and pointed to Biden’s travel schedule. “President Biden has traveled more in 2023 than President Obama had to the equivalent time in 2011; including to a Ukrainian warzone as he kept restoring our stature in the world,” Bates said. “You saw his qualified leadership when he, in real-time and on national television, baited congressional Republicans into committing not to cut Medicare during the State of the Union. And you saw it when he shook the hands of 921 Air Force cadets today before briefly tripping over a sandbag and then getting right back up.”
As his reelection campaign and message begin to take shape, Biden himself has addressed the age question head-on, attempting to reframe the matter as one of experience: the “wisdom” acquired over a long life in politics as an asset. He joked about it at the White House Correspondents Dinner but at several other instances, he’s offered a terse but confident reply to the question of whether he’s too old to hold the job for another six years: “Watch me.”
And people are. Three hours after an RNC researcher tweeted the video Thursday, it had already been seen more than 8 million times.