Biden mistakenly sought out the late Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana at a news conference.
Walorski was killed along with two aides in a car crash in August.
"Jackie are you here? Where's Jackie?," Biden said, in a slip-up that's sure to fuel Republican attacks.
President Joe Biden mistakenly sought out Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana at a news conference Wednesday, less than two months after putting out a statement mourning her death.
Biden was speaking at a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health when he thanked bipartisan elected officials who introduced legislation to convene the conference. Walorski was among them.
"Jackie are you here? Where's Jackie?," Biden said, looking to the side and saying in a soft voice, "she was going to be here."
Walorski and two of her staffers were killed in a car crash in Indiana on August 3, prompting a statement from Biden praising her work.
"She also served as co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, and my team and I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America," he said in the statement.
The slip-up could fuel attacks by Republicans who have been saying Biden is "diminished" and unable to do the job of president, even as Biden's allies insist he is capable as ever. Biden will be 80 in November, and if he were to win reelection in 2024, he would be 86 upon leaving office. He said recently on "60 Minutes"that it "remains to be seen" whether he'll run again.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, fielding questions during her news briefing Wednesday afternoon, attempted to explain Biden's behavior by repeatedly saying Walorski was "top of mind" for Biden. Biden had already planned to welcome her family to the White House on Friday, when there will be a bill signing in her honor, she said.
"So of course, she was on his mind, she was of top of mind for the president," she said.
When a reporter noted that Biden had asked whether the late Walorski was in the room, Jean-Pierre said, "I totally understand. I just I just explained she was on top of mind."
Jean-Pierre was later asked again why Biden was looking for the late congresswoman if she was "top of mind" and her family was expected at the White House. "I'm not trying to be snarky here," the reporter said.
"I don't think it's all that unusual to have someone top of mind especially when there are big events in her honor," Jean-Pierre said.
—Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) September 28, 2022
Political leaders on both sides of the aisle mourned Walorski's sudden passing in August.
"She passionately brought the voices of her north Indiana constituents to the Congress," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, adding that colleagues admired "her personal kindness."
Republican Rep. Jim Banks said his delegation-mate's purpose in life "was to serve others."
"She had a heart of gold, and I will miss her dearly," the Hoosier State lawmaker said.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who previously served as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said he was "shocked and saddened" by the news of Walorski's death and offered his thoughts and prayers to her family and the families of the two Capitol Hill staffers who also died in the accident.
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