Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley on Thursday claimed that Americans should not vote for Joe Biden because he may die during a second term and leave Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of the executive branch.
Ms Haley made the incendiary comment during an interview on Fox News, just days after Mr Biden – the oldest person to ever serve as America’s chief executive – announced his candidacy in next year’s presidential election.
“He announced that he’s running again in 2024, and I think that we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden you really are counting on a President Harris, because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely,” she said.
Mr Biden, who is 80 years of age, would be 82 on the day he is sworn in for a second term if he is re-elected next November. He would be 86 when his hypothetical second term expires.
The 46th president is generally considered to be in good health. In a memorandum released by the White House press office in February, Physician to the President Dr Kevin O’Connor said Mr Biden “remains a healthy, vigorous, 80-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency, to include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander in Chief”.
The president addressed the question of his age at a press conference on Wednesday, telling reporters that he took a “hard look” at the subject before announcing his 2024 election bid.
“I can’t even say, I guess, how old I am. I can’t even say the number, it doesn’t register with me,” he added.
Mr Biden’s likely Republican challenger, former president Donald Trump, is just a few years younger at 76 years of age. Yet Republicans have frequently suggested that the incumbent president is somehow senile or mentally unfit to serve despite no evidence to the contrary being in the public record.
Mr Trump has a long history of dissembling about his health record and asking others to do so.
His former physician, ex-US Navy admiral turned Texas Representative Ronny Jackson, raised eyebrows during a January 2018 press briefing when he told reporters Mr Trump could conceivably live to 200 years of age on account of his “good genes”.
Asked about Ms Haley’s attack on the president, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement: “As you know, we don’t engage with campaigns. But honestly, I forgot she was running”.