Administration

Biden asks if lawmaker killed in August accident is in attendance at White House event

President Biden on Wednesday asked if Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who was killed in a car accident last month, was in attendance at a White House hunger conference.

Biden was delivering a speech at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health when he recognized the lawmakers who helped make the event a reality.

“I want to thank all of you here, including bipartisan elected officials like Rep. [Jim] McGovern, Sen. [Mike] Braun, Sen. [Cory] Booker, Rep. … Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” Biden said, referring to Walorski.

Shortly after Biden spoke, White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice moderated a panel at the conference and acknowledged Walorski’s death.

Walorski and two staffers were killed in an Aug. 3 car accident. She had served in Congress since 2013.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the incident during a press briefing later Wednesday.

“The president was naming the congressional champions on this issue and was acknowledging her incredible work,” Jean-Pierre said, adding multiple times that Walorski was “top of mind” for Biden.

Biden will welcome Walorski’s family to the White House on Friday to sign a bill renaming a Veterans Affairs clinic after the late congresswoman, Jean-Pierre said.

“I don’t think it’s all that unusual to have someone top of mind, especially as there’s a big event — two big events, today and also Friday — that’s going to occur,” she added.

During her time in Congress, Walorski made combating hunger and malnutrition a key part of her work. She co-chaired the House Hunger Caucus with McGovern (D-Mass.), and she co-sponsored legislation with McGovern, Booker (D-N.J.) and Braun (R-Ind.) to convene the White House conference that took place on Wednesday. Such an event had not been held at that level in decades.

Biden issued a statement at the time of Walorski’s death mourning her loss and expressing condolences to her family. The White House also lowered flags to half-staff to commemorate her death.

Biden’s verbal slip provided instant fodder for many conservatives who have argued the 79-year-old has lost a step and is not mentally fit for the job.

“I guess Biden forgot he issued this statement unless he didn’t actually issue this statement!?!” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, referencing the statement from Biden in the wake of Walorski’s death.

“This man is not mentally fit to serve as President of the United States,” the conservative group Tea Party Patriots tweeted.

Biden has repeatedly pushed back on claims that he is unfit for office, pointing to his busy schedule and his ability to handle the rigors and demands of the job on a daily basis.

“If you think I don’t have the energy level or the mental acuity, then, you know, that’s one thing. It’s another thing, you just watch and, you know, keep my schedule, do what I’m doing,” Biden said in a recent interview with “60 Minutes.”

-Updated at 2:14 p.m.

Tags Biden Jackie Walorski Jackie Walorski Joe Biden Karine Jean-Pierre

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