Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to freeze up and was unable to speak with reporters at an event in Kentucky on Wednesday, just a month after a similarly scary episode on Capitol Hill.
McConnell, 81, didn’t respond when asked about running for reelection in 2026, prompting an aide to repeat the question.
“What are my thoughts about what?” McConnell said, before freezing up.
“Did you hear the question, senator?” an aide asked the senator, before telling reporters, “I’m sorry all, we’re going to need a minute.”
BREAKING NEWS: Sen. Mitch McConnell appearing to have another scary episode in the media gaggle in Covington today. Aides had to step in to help him out and repeat questions. He was eventually lead away. We'll have the full video on @WLWTpic.twitter.com/q9ex5MHxLV
— Hannah Thomas (@HannahPThomas) August 30, 2023
A McConnell spokesperson said the senator “felt momentarily lightheaded and paused during his press conference today.” An aide for the senator said he would be “consulting a physician prior to his next event.”
McConnell had no trouble speaking while delivering remarks moments earlier at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Government Forum. The senator called the status of government funding talks “a pretty big mess” and even cracked a few jokes, including about his role as leader of the Senate GOP.
“I’ve frequently been asked, ‘What’s it been like to be the leader of your party in the Senate?’” McConnell said at the event. “I finally came up with the perfect answer: It’s a little bit like being a groundskeeper at a cemetery. Everybody’s under you but nobody is listening.”
After last month’s freeze-up, McConnell said he was “fine” and his aides insisted he simply felt lightheaded after he was unable to speak for about 20 seconds at a press conference on Capitol Hill. McConnell’s GOP colleagues downplayed any talk of health issues, calling him sharp as ever.
McConnell was hospitalized for a concussion and broken ribs after falling earlier this year. The longtime Kentucky Republican senator, who had polio as a child, has slowed noticeably since then. He walks more slowly in the Capitol and has trouble hearing.
GOP senators have reportedly expressed concerns in private about McConnell’s health, noting that he doesn’t speak or answer questions at weekly policy lunches as often as he used to.
“People think that he’s not hearing well,” one GOP senator told NBC News. “I think that he is just not processing.”
President Joe Biden said he planned to reach out to McConnell on Wednesday.
“Mitch is a friend, as you know. Not a joke,” Biden said at the White House. “I know people don’t believe that’s the case ... I’m going to try and get in touch with him later this afternoon.”