(NewsNation) — Much scrutiny was on President Joe Biden after he appeared to suggest he had cancer in a video that quickly gained traction among Republican organizations.
Biden’s comment came a day before the White House announced that the president had tested positive for COVID-19. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden’s COVID-19 symptoms are mild.
During a speech Wednesday in Massachusetts where Biden talked about climate change and investing in clean energy, he said environmental issues that Delaware faced were “why I — and so damn many other people I grew up with — have cancer,” according to Newsweek. The publication notes that the comment was slightly muffled in footage.
Still, his comments quickly gained traction online, sparking the hashtag #BidenHasCancer on Twitter. The Republican National Committee asked, in a tweet, “Did Joe Biden just announce he has cancer?”
But Andrew Bates, the White House Deputy Press Secretary, quickly clarified that Biden was talking of a past experience — before he won office — when he had non-melanoma skin cancers removed.
“If we step back and look at this, we see that this is just another flub that the president made when it came to tenses,” The Hill’s Julia Manchester said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.” “This was definitely giving fodder to his critics. And it feeds into that narrative … that his conservative critics really pushed that he makes these verbal, verbal flubs quite a bit.”
Biden, currently 79 years old, is the oldest U.S. president to serve, Manchester pointed out, which is partly why his critics have gone after him for his mental acuity.
“That’s pretty unprecedented to see someone of that age in as stressful and as demanding of a job as president of the United States,” Manchester said.
At the same time, Democrats and Republicans have been accusing each other of having ill health throughout many political campaigns, she added.
“We saw it with Hillary Clinton in 2016, we’ve seen Democrats accuse President Trump of being unhealthy and having very unhealthy habits,” she said. “Going all the way back to 2008, you had then-Sen. John McCain, who was running for president, and a lot of Democrats and critics questioned his health given his very traumatic experience being held prisoner during the Vietnam War and his age.”
Biden’s health was in the news once again Thursday, after the White House announced in a statement that he tested positive for COVID-19. He is taking Paxlovid for treatment, Jean-Pierre said, and his symptoms are mild.