White House transparency under spotlight over Biden’s medical record

While Joe Biden is facing scrutiny over his competence to take on Donald Trump and serve a second term, scrutiny is also falling on the White House and his aides’ transparency when it comes to his medical records.

Since the president’s debate disaster last month, reporters and White House staff have thrashed it out in numerous heated press conferences about the 81-year-old’s mental fitness.

On several occasions over the fortnight since the debate, the Oval Office has been forced to clear up discrepancies in comments, statements or facts put out only hours or days earlier.

On Tuesday, the White House admitted that an expert on Parkinson’s disease did meet with Biden back in January – just hours after insisting that the specialist’s visit was not related to the president.

During a White House press briefing earlier this week, reporters had pushed press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about visitor logs showing that top neurologist Dr Kevin Cannard had visited the official residence eight times from last summer through to this spring.

In one meeting, on January 17, the movement disorder specialist and fellow at Emory University had met with Dr Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s personal physician.

White House visitor logs show it was the sole meeting between the doctors.

Jean-Pierre initially denied that the meeting was related to care for the 81-year-old president – saying “I can say that it was not” before later backtracking and confirming it was after all.

Jean-Pierre has faced questions about Biden’s meetings with medics (AP)
Jean-Pierre has faced questions about Biden’s meetings with medics (AP)

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House confirmed that Biden underwent a neurological exam with Dr Cannard on January 17.

The exam was part of the president’s annual physical, the results of which were released the following month. The physical found “no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis,” Dr O’Connor’s report read.

“Because the date was not mentioned in the question, I want to be clear that the Jan 17 meeting between Dr O’Connor and Dr Cannard was for the President’s physical,” Jean-Pierre said in the statement.

“It was one of the three times the President has seen Dr. Cannard, each time for his physical. The findings from each exam have been released to the public,” she continued.

Jean-Pierre doubled down that Biden has only seen the neurologist on three occasions – “not more than that” – and that each occasion was only part of his annual physical.

She later told reporters that “sometimes I get it wrong.”

“I will be the first one to admit: Sometimes I get it wrong. At least I admit that,” she said. “And sometimes I don’t have the information. And I will always, always admit that.”

Biden’s debate debacle has caused problems spreading beyond his own political career, including for the White House (Getty Images)
Biden’s debate debacle has caused problems spreading beyond his own political career, including for the White House (Getty Images)

While Jean-Pierre sought to explain away the discrepancy, it is only one example where the White House has come under growing scrutiny for its perceived lack of transparency and flip-flopping in the face of journalists’ questions about Biden’s competence.

In another walkback, Jean-Pierre had previously claimed that the president had not been “checked out by a doctor” for the cold his team claims hindered his debate performance.

“We were able to talk to his doctor about that and that is a no,” she said when asked if he had undergone a medical exam.

But this then contradicted other lines coming from the president and his team.

In a private meeting with Democratic governors, Biden confirmed he had been checked out by his doctor following the debate.

He also told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that a doctor carried out tests including for Covid due to him feeling unwell.

Jean-Pierre went on to explain this discrepancy by saying she meant that Biden did not get a full medical exam and that the president did indeed have a “check-in” with his doctor – which he does a couple of times a week.

The White House vehemently denied that Biden has any degenerative neurological disorder when probed by The Independent at a press briefing.

But, despite the insistence, the president’s age and mental fitness is falling increasingly under a microscope following his dismal performance against Donald Trump in the first televised debate of the 2024 election.