Nancy Pelosi: It’s a 'legitimate question' whether Biden's debate performance was a 'condition' or just an 'episode'

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that it’s valid for people to ask whether President Joe Biden’s poor performance at the debate Thursday night was just “an episode” or part of a “condition.”

“I think it’s a legitimate question to say, is this an episode, or is this a condition? And so when people ask that question, it’s completely legitimate — of both candidates,” Pelosi, still a prominent member of the House Democratic Caucus, said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

Both candidates owe whatever test you want to put them to, in terms of their mental acuity and their health — both of them,” she added.

Asked for further clarification, Pelosi spokesperson Ian Krager said that she “has full confidence in President Biden and looks forward to attending his inauguration on January 20, 2025.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at the daily briefing later Tuesday that the administration has been transparent about Biden’s health.

“We have put forward a thorough, transparent annual report on his health, so they have said it is not warranted, it is not necessary” to have a cognitive test, she said.

When asked if Biden was seen by a doctor or underwent a neurological scan after the debate, Jean-Pierre said that people need to “take a step back,” and that Biden’s aides understand the president had a “bad night.”

During last week’s debate, Biden repeatedly appeared to lose his train of thought and stumbled over his words several times. His performance — which even close allies admitted was a setback — renewed speculation about whether he should be replaced as the Democratic presidential nominee.

Trump, who is 78, has also faced questions about his mental fitness after he mixed up Pelosi with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley earlier this year. Several business executives who met with Trump in Washington, D.C., last month also told CNBC that he was “remarkably meandering” and “could not keep a straight thought” throughout the event.

Speaking from a teleprompter at a campaign event Friday, Biden, who is 81, acknowledged that he’s gotten older and doesn’t debate as well as he used to. But he insisted that he was up for the job.

Pelosi said she’s heard mixed messages from elected Democrats about whether Biden should remain in the race. On one hand, she said people say, “Joe’s our guy. We love him; we trust him. He has vision, knowledge, judgment, integrity. The other guy has none of the above.”

“It’s going to be up to Joe Biden to do what he thinks,” she said. “There is no more patriotic person in our country than the president of — this president of the United States.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas on Tuesday became the first Democrat in Congress to call on Biden to exit the race. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., told CNN on Tuesday that while it’s ultimately the president’s decision whether or not to drop out, “we have to be honest with ourselves that it wasn’t just a horrible night.”

Pelosi said she’s not a doctor and can’t predict what will happen three or four years from now, but she said her experience tells her he will “continue to be a great president of the United States.”

She emphasized that Biden must show what he’s like unscripted to the American people and said her recommendation is for him to sit down for a few interviews with serious journalists in which any question is fair game and Biden can “just sit there and be Joe.”

“Not one, maybe two — a couple of those. I think that is essential,” Pelosi said. “I think it is essential for them to do that.”

Later Tuesday, ABC News announced that Biden would sit for an interview with anchor George Stephanopoulos on Friday.

Pelosi said she hasn’t spoken to Biden since the debate last week. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the former House Democratic whip and a close Biden ally, said in a separate interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” that he also has not spoken to the president since the debate.

The White House last released Biden’s health information in February 2024 following a routine physical exam.

At the time, Jean-Pierre rejected suggestions that Biden take a cognitive test, saying the president “passes a cognitive test every day” as he “moves from one topic to another topic, understanding the granular level of these topics.”

Trump in November 2023 released a letter from his doctor who said that the former president was in “excellent” physical and mental health. The document, however, did not contain any details on vitals or test results.

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