Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) inexplicably froze up during a Senate GOP leadership press conference Wednesday afternoon, prompting his colleagues to pull him aside from a podium at the Capitol without finishing his remarks.
Odd moment: McConnell freezes at start of Senate GOP leadership press conference and is escorted to the side by his colleagues pic.twitter.com/hT5bLnstOS
— Raquel Martin (@RaquelMartinTV) July 26, 2023
McConnell — who at 81 years of age is the longest-serving party leader in the history of the U.S. Senate — went silent during his opening remarks at his regular press conference, according to video of the alarming moment.
“Well, good afternoon, everyone,” he said moments after walking up to the podium. “We’re on a path to finishing the NDAA this week. There’s been good bipartisan cooperation, as well as a string of, uh,” he trailed off.
As his tight-lipped, unblinking pause grew longer, Republican colleagues Steve Daines (MT), Joni Ernst (IA), Shelly Moore Capito (WV), Jon Thune (SD), and John Barrasso (WY) showed visible concern.
Barrasso eventually stepped in. “Hey Mitch,” he interjected. “Anything else you wanna say, or should we just go back to your office?” McConnell did not speak but appeared to recognize he was being spoken to, apparently verbalizing a “Hmm?” and leaning forward. “Do you want to say anything else to the press?” Barrasso reiterated.
At that point, McConnell turned and walked to the side of the podium, guided by Sens. Thune and Barrasso with their hands on his arms.
According to the Associated Press, McConnell briefly walked to his office and then returned to the press conference, saying he was “fine”:
[McConnell] slowly walked back to his office with an aide and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a former orthopedic surgeon who is the No. 3 Republican in the Senate. McConnell later returned to the press conference and answered questions from the press.
Asked about what happened, McConnell said he was “fine.” He did not elaborate.
McConnell, 81, was out of the Senate for almost six weeks earlier this year after falling and hitting his head. His office later said he suffered a concussion and fractured a rib.
McConnell’s office has not released any statement on the incident at the time of this writing.