Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Press Secretary, was forced to scramble when President Joe Biden asked for Jackie Walorski (R-IN), during Wednesday’s event.
Walorski was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident in August. However, Biden repeatedly called Walorski to ask where she was during his opening remarks at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Before her death, Walorski was one of the four co-sponsors of a bill that would have funded the conference.
“Jackie! Are you here?” Biden looked around the crowd, seemingly searching for the Indiana Republican.
Jean-Pierre asked questions about the gaffe in Wednesday’s briefing.
.@CeciliaVega: “What happened at the Hunger Event today? [Biden] appeared to look around…for…a member of Congress [Jackie Walorski] who passed away last month…What happened there?”
KJP: He “was acknowledging her incredible work…She was on his mind…top of mind” pic.twitter.com/LhEECd4QBR
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 28, 2022
Cecilia Vega, ABC, was the first to question the president about his flub. She asked, “What happened today at the Hunger Event?” The president seemed to be looking around for a member of Congress, who died last month. Was he imagining her? “What happened?”
Jean-Pierre said that Biden only wanted to acknowledge the work Walorski had made — and that he intended to visit her family and sign an honor bill later in the week. He also added that “she was top of his mind, she’d been on his mind.”
Other reporters raised the issue and noted that even though the congresswoman was “top-of-mind”, it seemed strange that the president didn’t seem to recall that she had died.
Reporter: “The confusing part is why, if she and the family is top of mind, does the president think that she’s living and in the room?”
KJP: “I don’t find that confusing.”
Reporter: “I have John Lennon top of mind just about every day but I’m not looking around for him.” pic.twitter.com/VUrXCmpcgl
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 28, 2022
Another reporter asked, “The confusing thing is why, even if she and her family are top of mind. Does the president still think she’s living and breathing in the room?”
Jean-Pierre replied, “I don’t find it confusing,” Jean Pierre retorted, saying that Biden had spent so much time reviewing Walorski’s work and was preparing to recognize Walorski. His name was the only one that came to his mind as he spoke.
The reporter replied, “I keep John Lennon in my mind almost every day but I don’t look around for him.”
Jean-Pierre responded quickly, “When you sign John Lennon’s bill as president, then this conversation can begin.”