President Joe Biden stumbled three times and fell on the steps of Air Force One on Friday, prompting fresh questions about his health.
The 78-year-old – the oldest president in US history – appeared to struggle as he boarded the presidential plane.
It was not immediately clear what tripped Mr Biden up the first time, but shortly after recovering he fell twice more before dusting himself off. Security officials, meanwhile, looked on with concern from the ground.
The president recovered to give a salute at the top of the stairs before departing to meet with Asian American community leaders in the wake of the massage parlour massacre in Atlanta, Georgia.
Reporters travelling with Mr Biden said it had been a windy morning at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where Air Force One took off.
The White House said he “is doing 100 per cent fine” after his fall.
“I know folks have seen that President Biden slipped on his way up the stairs to AF1, but I’m happy to report that he is just fine and did not even require any attention from the medical team who travels with him,” said Kate Bedingfield, White House Communications Director. “Nothing more than a misstep on the stairs.”
American leaders have a history of struggling with the stairs used to board the aircraft – which has cost the Pentagon more than $5 billion (£3.5bn), but rarely have the falls been so spectacular.
The commander-in-chief suffered a hairline fracture in his right foot while playing with his rescue dog Major in November, requiring him to wear an orthopedic boot for several weeks.
Mr Biden, who has said he uses a Peloton bike to keep fit, often makes a point of jogging in a show of his fitness.
However, questions have been raised about Mr Biden’s mental, and physical, acuity. The president on Thursday accidentally called Kamala Harris, Vice President, “President Harris”.
Throughout the election campaign he has engaged in numerous malapropisms, slurred words, mispronouncing words and misidentifying people, such as calling his wife Jill his sister.
A senior pro-Kremlin politician in Russia accused Mr Biden of having dementia on Thursday, striking back after the the US president called his counterpart Vladimir Putin a “killer”.
Republican detractors have long claimed the president is suffering from senility.
“I remember the press bashing Trump for touching the rail once,” tweeted a gleeful Donald Trump Jnr, sharing the clip of the incident. “Biden falls repeatedly but I’m sure he’s the picture of health. No wonder all our enemies are pouncing simultaneously and mocking him publicly.”
The president’s latest medical report showed no signs of any degenerative disease.
Mr Biden survived two brain aneurysms in the late 1980s — one did not rupture. And while the condition was later complicated by subsequent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, his doctor at the time stated there was no serious threats to his health and medical conditions.
Despite this, a new poll shows the number of Americans who approve of Mr Biden has grown steadily since he took office, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling released on Friday, driven by concrete steps his administration has taken to address the public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The March 17-18 national opinion poll found that 59 per cent of adults in the US approved of Biden’s overall job performance, while 35 per cent disapproved and 6 per cent said they were not sure.
The number of adults who approve of Mr Biden is up by about 4 percentage points since a poll that ran in late January, and the increase is largely due to a rise in Mr Biden’s popularity among independents.
Mr Biden and Ms Harris will later meet community leaders and state lawmakers from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community in Atlanta, Georgia, to hear concerns about the killings and discuss a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.
For Republicans Mr Biden’s imbalance was a ‘told-you-so’ moment
Even in the annals of presidential missteps this stands out, writes Nick Allen in Washington.
It was the never-before-seen Air Force One triple tumble. And for extra global humiliation Joe Biden managed to do it while going up the stairs.
In one – well, three – moments of imbalance, Mr Biden inflicted more damage on his own presidency than the Mexico border crisis, China, and Vladimir Putin put together.
You could almost hear the cackling echoing around the Kremlin.
What it means is this. America, particularly Democrats, can no longer turn a blind eye to Mr Biden’s age.
If he was an ordinary government employee he would have retired in about 2008. The most important question is not can he do the job now, but can he do it in 2022, 2023, even 2024?
The pace of the presidency is relentless. It is the biggest job in the world. And we know the sense of responsibility weighs heavily on Mr Biden’s sagging shoulders.
He began his term at breakneck speed. Endless executive orders. A massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
A multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill is next. That will require him to spend endless hours twisting the arms of members of Congress.
Is he up to it? Can he walk and chew gum at the same time? On this evidence he can’t even walk up some stairs, let alone do it chewing gum.
For Republicans this was a “told-you-so” moment. Not many expected it to happen so soon. Supporters of Donald Trump decried why the incident was not being shown on CNN.
But it didn’t matter. Mr Biden’s unfortunate stumble was plastered all over social media, and it wasn’t a good look.
From the side view of the gangway he appeared like a jack-in-the-box. He was down, then he was up, then he was definitely down.
As he ostentatiously brushed off his knee one could only imagine what he was thinking. Something like “Oh Joey, you’ve done it now…”
The jokes at Mr Biden’s expense came thick and fast – “I wish gas prices would fall as much as Joe Biden” and “Trump must have loosened the carpet”.
For his opponents it was the second gift on a silver platter in as many days. The day before, in a speech, he referred to Kamala Harris as “President Harris”. Then he didn’t even bother to correct himself. The White House transcript of his speech also called her “President Harris”.
We all know Mr Biden won’t be running in 2024, and that Ms Harris will. This just speeded up the transition process.
Source – telegraph