Amid scrutiny over fitness for presidential office, Biden undergoes annual medical exam

Published February 28, 2024
US President Joe Biden arrives at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for his routine annual physical, on February 28, 2024.—AFP
US President Joe Biden arrives at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for his routine annual physical, on February 28, 2024.—AFP

US President Joe Biden reported to a hospital on Wednesday for his last yearly medical examination before November’s election as scrutiny intensifies over the 81-year-old’s fitness and mental acuity for a second term.

The White House said a summary of the test results from the Walter Reed military medical facility outside Washington would be released later in the day.

It will be closely followed for details about the health of America’s oldest-ever leader.

Biden, who is on course for a rematch with 77-year-old former president Donald Trump in November’s vote, took a short helicopter ride to the medical centre that is often used by US presidents.

“I’m going to Walter Reed to get my physical,” Biden said as he left the White House and reporters shouted questions at him.

Biden’s routine medical exam comes as voter concerns mount over the age of a leader who would be 86 at the end of a second term in office.

The issue was thrust further into the spotlight this month when a brutal special counsel report portrayed Biden as elderly and forgetful, giving ammunition to his Republican rivals.

The investigation cleared him of illegally retaining classified documents in his home and garage – but said he would come across to a jury as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Two old men

Biden launched a fiery counterattack in a press conference at the White House, saying his memory was “fine” and slamming the special counsel for claiming he could not remember when his son Beau died of cancer.

But this week Biden took a lighter-hearted tone while trying to deflect the issue back onto his septuagenarian nemesis Trump.

In an interview with late-night TV comic Seth Meyers on Monday, Biden said he was a better bet than “the other guy” who was only a few years younger.

In last year’s medical exam, Biden got a clean bill of health, although he did have a cancerous skin lesion removed from his chest.

“President Biden remains a healthy, vigorous, 80-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency,” his doctor Kevin ‘Connor, said following Biden’s medical examination in 2023.

Trump routinely depicts Biden as pathetically old, decrepit and unfit for office, although Trump, who is 77, has also raised eyebrows with a series of verbal gaffes and memory issues.

He recently confused his rival Republican Nikki Haley with Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and said Viktor Orban was president of Turkey, rather than Hungary.

Late last year Trump released a note from his doctor declaring him to be in “excellent” health but it was short on details and did not say what tests Trump had undergone when he had a physical in September 2023.

The letter said the results of his cognitive exams were “exceptional” but did not disclose basic information such as Trump’s height and weight, cholesterol level or blood pressure.

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