President Joe Biden fell after handing out the final diploma during a graduation ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado on Thursday, the second time the 80-year-old has tumbled since taking office.
Biden turned to return to his seat as the ceremony neared its end when he tripped and went to both knees, his right arm breaking his fall. An Air Force official and two Secret Service agents quickly reached the fallen president and helped him to his feet, according to videos posted on social media.
After being helped up, Biden pointed at an object on the stage and appeared to indicate he tripped on it. A reporter traveling with Biden sent a dispatch indicated the object was a sandbag. The reporter said the president stood until the ceremony ended a few minutes later.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, traveling with Biden, later told the pool reporter the president is “totally fine” and wore a “big smile” as he boarded Air Force One.
Biden has twice stumbled while climbing airport tarmac staircases while boarding Air Force One, once a few months after taking office in 2021 and again while departing Warsaw earlier this year. Conservative social media users reacted to Thursday’s fall immediately with a mix of declarations he is too old for office or jokes about his physical condition.
Biden didn’t take questions as he boarded Air Force One following the hourslong commencement.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also said Biden is “totally fine” while she boarded Air Force One, according to the reporters traveling with Biden.
Later, returning to the White House, Biden said, “I got sandbagged!” as reporters shouted questions about how he was feeling.
He didn’t add anything beyond that but did appear to try and show he was feel OK, doing a bit of footwork for the press before walking inside.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, another 2024 contender for the Republican nomination, also reacted to the fall during a campaign event in New Hampshire: “We hope and wish Joe Biden a swift recovery from any injuries he may have sustained.
“But we also wish the United States of America a swift recovery from the injuries it has sustained because of Joe Biden and his policies.”
Mr Biden’s last physical examination took place in February.
White House physician Dr Kevin O’Connor wrote at the time: “The President remains fit for duty, and fully executes all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations.”
Dr O’Connor added that Mr Biden walks with a “stiffened gait”, largely caused by wear and tear on his spine and nerve damage in his feet, but that his condition was unchanged from a previous physical in November 2021.
Mr Biden is hardly the first commander-in-chief to lose his footing in front of the cameras.
President Barack Obama tripped walking up stairs at a 2012 event, while President Gerald Ford fell down the stairs of Air Force One in 1975.
Last summer, Biden fell when he tried to get off his bike at the end of a ride at Cape Henlopen State Park near his beach home in Delaware, but said he wasn’t hurt. He has also tripped but collected himself while speeding up the stairs to board Air Force One.
“He actually fell down?” former President Donald Trump said Thursday during a campaign event in Iowa when asked about Biden. “Well I hope he wasn’t hurt.”
Trump went on to reference the criticism he received in 2020 for walking gingerly down a ramp during the graduation ceremony of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Trump, now 76, also appeared to have trouble bringing a glass of water to his mouth during his speech.
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