Biden dismisses debate as 'bad episode' as he rejects calls to quit race

In an attempt to allay worries after a dismal debate performance that sparked demands for him to withdraw his reelection campaign, Joe Biden defended his electability and mental health in a TV interview on Friday. The 81-year-old president dismissed fears about his prospects, blaming his debate performance on illness and reiterating his eligibility to continue running.

Joe Biden fended off questions about his mental fitness and electability on Friday in a TV interview meant to draw a line under a disastrous debate performance that triggered calls for him to quit his re-election bid.

With rebellion brewing among some nervous Democratic voters, lawmakers and donors, the one-to-one with the ABC network was hyped as the most consequential of the 81-year-old president's long career.

But the 22-minute sit-down appeared to provide little reassurance, as Biden blamed sickness for his sub-par performance and repeatedly dismissed polling and fears within his party that the debate had gravely wounded his prospects.

"I was sick, I was feeling terrible... I just had a really bad cold," said the president, in his first unscripted remarks of any length since last week's showdown with Republican rival Donald Trump.

The interview was intended to help Biden weather the storm, but his hoarse voice and meandering answers drew immediate Democratic fire for appearing "out of touch."

He dodged calls to have doctors assess his mental acuity, saying that the duties of the presidency mean "I have a cognitive test every single day. Every day I have that test, everything I do."

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