Sunday, 19 May 2024

McConnell Freezes Up a Second Time While Addressing Reporters

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the longtime Republican leader who suffered a serious head injury in a fall earlier this year, experienced another alarming freeze-up at a news conference on Wednesday in Covington, Ky., the second such episode caught on camera in recent weeks.

Mr. McConnell, 81, was taking questions from reporters after an event hosted by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce when he was asked for his thoughts on running for re-election in 2026. Mr. McConnell, who appeared thinner and frailer than he has in recent months, began to answer the question with a slight chuckle when he abruptly stopped speaking, standing motionless behind a lectern with his mouth pursed and his eyes wide.

When an aide approached to ask if he had heard the question, he mumbled “yes,” but he seemed unable to continue speaking or to move.

It was the second such incident in two months, and the scene intensified questions about Mr. McConnell’s future in the Senate.

Mr. McConnell froze midsentence last month during an appearance at his weekly news conference in the Capitol and was briefly escorted away from the microphones to recover.

Some physicians who viewed video of the news conference at the time said it could have been a mini stroke or partial seizure. But Mr. McConnell’s office declined to share details about his health, including whether he consulted with a physician after the incident.

After Wednesday’s episode, a spokesman said that Mr. McConnell had felt lightheaded during the news conference and as a safety measure planned to consult with a physician before his next event.

Inside a conference room in Kentucky where Mr. McConnell was speaking, his aides were flustered by the senator’s abrupt spell.

“I’m sorry, you all, we’re going to need a minute,” an aide told the assembled reporters. She conferred briefly with Mr. McConnell and a man who appeared to be a member of his security detail, who asked him if he wanted to step outside.

Mr. McConnell seemed to resist efforts to be led away, saying he was fine and staying to answer questions from the media. But his speaking appeared labored and slightly slurred, and he was led away within minutes.

Last month, he also quickly returned to his news conference and then carried on with his regular schedule. He shared little information about the episode and attempted to play down any concerns about his health or his ability to continue to lead the Republican conference in the Senate, even as the incident raised questions about his political future.

Mr. McConnell had a concussion in March when he fell at a Washington hotel during a fund-raising event, and was absent from the Senate for weeks while giving almost no updates on his health status. Since then, he has had at least two more falls, which his office did not disclose.

Annie Karni is a congressional correspondent. She was previously a White House correspondent. Before joining The Times, she covered the White House and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign for Politico, and spent a decade covering local politics for the New York Post and the New York Daily News. More about Annie Karni

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