President Biden tripped and fell after delivering a speech and handing out diplomas to graduates of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on Thursday. Mr. Biden, who is 80 years old, was helped up and appeared to recover quickly.
Mr. Biden’s fall was captured on video and spread on social media. He appears to trip, fall to his knees and catch himself with his hands on the floor of the stage. He was helped up by several Air Force officials and Secret Service agents, and he walked back to his seat.
Mr. Biden had just delivered an energetic speech to the Air Force graduates before helping to hand out the diplomas. He fell after he distributed the final diploma and was headed back to his seat.
“He’s fine,” Ben LaBolt, the White House communications director, said in a tweet Thursday afternoon. “There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands.”
Embarrassing moments are not uncommon for presidents, who spend much of their tenure in front of cameras. President Gerald Ford was repeatedly roasted by comedians for frequently tripping during his presidency.
President Donald J. Trump, a day before his 74th birthday in 2020, appeared slow and unsteady as he walked down a ramp from the stage after the West Point commencement ceremony, prompting online speculation about his health.
For Mr. Biden, who is already America’s oldest president and is asking voters for a second term that would extend until he is 86, the stumble at the commencement on Thursday is likely to add to questions about his physical condition.
The president’s White House doctor has acknowledged that Mr. Biden’s gait has stiffened significantly with age, leading to a much slower, less steady walk. He has stumbled in the past: In February, he tripped and caught himself with his hands as he boarded Air Force One as he returned from Warsaw.
Republicans have seized on the president’s stumbles as evidence that he is unfit for office, with some using highly unflattering images or videos to make their point online.
But people close to Mr. Biden, including many of his staff members, insist he remains very fit and often has the energy to make it through long, grueling days. He exercises daily, they say, and is not overweight.
Mr. Biden has himself acknowledged that questions about his age are legitimate, and before he fell on Thursday, he included a joke about his age in his remarks to the graduates.
“When I was graduating from high school 300 years ago, I applied to the Naval Academy,” he said, prompting laughter.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters traveling with the president as he returned to Washington from Colorado aboard Air Force One that the president was feeling “totally fine.”
Michael D. Shear is a veteran White House correspondent and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who was a member of team that won the Public Service Medal for Covid coverage in 2020. He is the co-author of “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” @shearm
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