During a White House event on Wednesday, a seemingly oblivious Joe Biden asked if a Republican congresswoman who was killed in a car accident last month, was in attendance.
Biden was delivering remarks at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, and wanted to recognize the lawmakers who helped make the event a reality.
“I want to thank all of you here, including bipartisan elected officials like Rep. [Jim] McGovern [D-Mass.], Sen. [Mike] Braun [R-In.], Sen. [Cory] Booker [D-N.J.], Rep. … Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” Biden said, referring to Walorski.
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and two staffers were killed in a car accident on August 3.
Shortly after Biden spoke, White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice reportedly acknowledged Walorski’s death while moderating a panel.
"Jackie are you here? Where's Jackie?"
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) died in a car accident in August pic.twitter.com/cHc3b7zPmE
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) September 28, 2022
After the incident, the hyper-partisan clickbait Twitter account “Occupy Democrats” slammed the “radical, rightwing Republican” for disrespecting Joe Biden by not showing up for the event.
“She was also unable to be reached for comment about her act of defiance,” Occupy Democrats wrote, adding: “RT IF YOU ARE TIRED OF THE CONSTANT DISRESPECT OF PRESIDENT BIDEN!!!”
Occupy Democrats later deleted the embarrassing tweet.
— Pradheep J. Shanker (@Neoavatara) September 28, 2022
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre struggled to explain Biden’s careless lapse when asked about it during a press briefing later Wednesday.
“The president was naming the congressional champions on this issue and was acknowledging her incredible work,” Jean-Pierre said, adding awkwardly multiple times that Walorski was on “top of mind” for Biden.
Jean-Pierre said that Biden will welcome Walorski’s family to the White House on Friday to sign a bill renaming a Veterans Affairs clinic after the late congresswoman.
“Of course she was on his mind, she was on the top of mind for the president, the spokeswoman said. “He very much looks forward to discussing her remarkable legacy of public service with them when he sees her family this coming Friday,” she added.
The reporter pressed Jean-Pierre on Biden’s absentmindedness.
“He said, ‘Jackie are you here? Where’s Jackie, she must not be here,” the reporter reminded the press secretary.
“No, I totally understand. I just explained, she was on top of mind, uh, um, you know?” Jean-Pierre stammered. “She just wasn’t … what we were able to witness today, and what the president was able to lift up in this conference, at this event, was how her focus was on wanting to deal with um, deal with, combat food insecurity in America.”
The spokeswoman continued, still not answering the question, “this was something he [Biden] was lifting up and honoring,” she said, reiterating that that he would be visiting with Walorski’s family on Friday in Indiana. “She was on top of mind,” Jean-Pierre repeated.
“I don’t think it’s all that unusual to have someone top of mind, especially as there’s a big event — two big events, today and also Friday—that’s going to occur,” she said later.
Sports journalist Clay Travis shared a video clip of Jean-Pierre’s attempt to explain her boss’s gaffe, on Twitter, writing, “This just keeps getting more embarrassing.”
The White House attempts to explain how Joe Biden asked where a dead congresswoman was in the crowd today. It doesn’t go well. This just keeps getting more embarrassing. Joe Biden has awful dementia and it just keeps getting worse every day: pic.twitter.com/yvMXwrkQbO
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 28, 2022
During her time in Congress, according to the Hill, “Walorski made combating hunger and malnutrition a key part of her work” during her time in Congress. She had served in Congress since 2013.
She co-chaired the House Hunger Caucus with McGovern (D-Mass.), and she co-sponsored legislation with McGovern, Booker (D-N.J.) and Braun (R-Ind.) to convene the White House conference that took place on Wednesday. Such an event had not been held at that level in decades.
Biden issued a statement at the time of Walorski’s death mourning her loss and expressing condolences to her family. The White House also lowered flags to half-staff to commemorate her death.
“Jill and I are shocked and saddened by the death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana along with two members of her staff in a car accident today in Indiana,” the statement begins.
Born in her beloved South Bend as the daughter of a meat-cutter and firefighter, she spent a lifetime serving the community that she grew up in – as a journalist, a nonprofit director, a state legislator, and eventually as a Member of Congress for the past nine and half years.
We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work on the House Ways and Means Committee on which she served. She also served as co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, and my team and I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America.
We send our deepest condolences to her husband, Dean, to the families of her staff members, Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson, who lost their lives in public service, and to the people of Indiana’s Second District who lost a representative who was one of their own.
More from Wednesday’s press conference via AoSHQ:
Alex Nazarayan, the White House pool reporter chose to omit the “Where’s Jackie?” part of the event from his pool report, resulting in thousands of local papers and television stations not being informed of Biden’s concerning gaffe.