Biden won't commit to independent cognitive test when asked in ABC News interview

"Look. I have a cognitive test every single day," he said, referring to his job.

ByMeredith Deliso ABCNews logo
Saturday, July 6, 2024
Biden won't commit to independent cognitive test
After renewed calls for the president to drop out of the 2024 election, Biden talks with ABC's George Stephanopoulos about recent questions about his cognitive abilities.

President Joe Biden would not commit to taking independent cognitive and neurological tests during his first television interview since last week's presidential debate.

Biden, 81, sat down with ABC "Good Morning America" and "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, as the president's poor performance in the debate has garnered calls from some Democrats for him to drop out of the race and renewed concerns about his age and cognitive abilities.

During the interview, Biden attributed his "bad night" to a cold and exhaustion and said he has regular medical assessments.

Stephanopoulos referenced a New York Times report from Tuesday headlined, "Biden's Lapses Are Said to Be Increasingly Common and Worrisome," which reported that people who have spent time with the president over the last several months "said the lapses appear to have grown more frequent, more pronounced and, after Thursday's debate, more worrisome."

Asked whether he has had specific cognitive tests or an examination by a neurologist, Biden responded, "No. No one said I had to. No one said. They said I'm good."

Then asked if he would be willing to undergo an independent medical evaluation that included neurological and cognitive tests -- and release those results to the American people, Biden said, "Look. I have a cognitive test every single day."

"Every day I have that test. Everything I do," he continued. "You know, not only am I campaigning, but I'm running the world. Not - and that's not hi -- sounds like hyperbole, but we are the essential nation of the world."

Biden went on to detail how on a given day he is talking to other world leaders and dealing with global matters such as the expansion of NATO.

"I mean, every day there's no day I go through there not those decisions I have to make every single day," Biden said.

Again asked whether he would be willing to have an independent medical evaluation to reassure Americans, Biden said, "Watch me between -- there's a lotta time left in this campaign. There's over 125 days."

Asked if the answer right now is no, that he doesn't want to do that right now, Biden said, "Well, I've already done it."

Biden later said he wouldn't be running for reelection if he didn't think he had the mental and physical capacity for another four years in office.

The interview followed a fiery rally with Democratic supporters in Madison, during which Biden insisted he is remaining in the race.

ABC News had reached out to Biden's Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump, to offer him an equivalent platform but his team declined.

Biden is the oldest commander in chief in U.S. history. Both his and Trump's advanced ages have been raised throughout the 2024 campaign, though recent polling suggests that Trump's is less of a concern among voters. In a poll from The New York Times and Siena College from June 28 to July 2, 20% of registered voters said that Trump's age -- 78 -- "is such a problem that he is not capable of handling the job of president," while 48% said the same about Biden, including 16% of Democrats.

Following the debate, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" that it's a "legitimate question" to ask whether Biden's poor debate performance was an "episode" or "a condition."

Pelosi said her personal experience with Biden showcased a president who "has a vision, he has knowledge." and that he had a "bad night."

"I think it's a legitimate question to say is this an episode or is this a condition? And so when people ask this question, it's completely legitimate -- of both candidates," she said Tuesday.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Friday expressed concern over Biden's cognitive abilities following his debate performance, citing confused rambling, loss of concentration, and a lack of facial animation. Gupta stressed that with these observations he is not making a diagnosis but recommended that Biden undergo detailed cognitive and movement disorder testing, with the results made public. Gupta noted that Trump has displayed some similar signs as Biden, such as nonsensical rants and confusion over names and current events.

This week, Trump's senior campaign advisors have accused Democrats of hiding Biden's cognitive ability and said in a statement that he is "not fit for the White House."

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked repeatedly during a press briefing on Tuesday about whether Biden will release results from mental acuity tests in the wake of the debate. She said his medical team has decided it's "not warranted in this case."

"We have put forward a thorough, transparent, annual report on his health. So, they have said that is not warranted. It is not necessary," she said. "Again, we understand, we understand. We're not taking away from what you all saw, what the American people saw. We understand, it was a bad night."

Following the president's most recent physical, in February, Biden's physician, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, said the test "identified no new concerns" and that Biden is "fit" to serve.

A detailed neurological exam found no issues, though there was no mention of cognitive testing.