Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze for about 30 seconds on Wednesday while speaking with reporters after a speech in Covington, Kentucky.
The incident is similar to an episode McConnell experienced at the US Capitol late last month and is likely to raise additional questions about the fitness of the 81-year-old to lead the Senate Republican caucus.
McConnell freezes during July 2023 press conference
Wednesday’s episode occurred when a reporter asked the Republican leader if he was planning to run for reelection in 2026. McConnell had to ask him to repeat the question several times, chuckled for a moment, and then paused, closing his mouth and staring straight ahead.
Someone at his side then asked him, “Did you hear the question, senator, running for reelection in 2026?” McConnell did not respond.
“I’m sorry you all, we’re gonna need a minute,” the aide told reporters. A member of the senator’s detail spoke quietly to him for a moment, and McConnell was able to whisper an answer to him.
McConnell turned back to reporters, said, “OK,” and his aide asked if anyone had another question, and if reporters could “speak up.”
A spokesman for McConnell told CNN that the Kentucky Republican “felt momentarily lightheaded and paused during his press conference today.” A McConnell aide added: “While he feels fine, as a prudential measure, the leader will be consulting a physician prior to his next event.”
McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republican caucus since 2007, has faced questions about his health throughout the year. He was treated for a concussion and fractured rib after falling at a hotel in Washington in March, returning to the Senate several weeks later.
In late July, McConnell froze for 30 seconds during a news conference on Capitol Hill. At the time, his office said the Kentucky Republican was “lightheaded” and Republicans later said that he was dehydrated. Speaking to reporters after the incident, McConnell insisted he was “fine.”
McConnell and his top deputy, Senate Republican Whip John Thune, spoke this afternoon after Wednesday’s incident.
“The leader sounded like his usual self and was in good spirits,” Thune spokesman Ryan Wrasse said.
President Joe Biden also told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he plans to try to “get in touch” with McConnell.
“Mitch is a friend, as you know – not a joke, I know people don’t believe that’s the case. We have disagreements politically but he’s a good friend and so I’m going to try and get in touch with him later this afternoon. I don’t know enough to know,” Biden told reporters following remarks on the federal response to Hurricane Idalia and the wildfires in Maui.
This story has been updated with additional information.