(WASHINGTON) — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Thursday released a statement from the Capitol attending physician after an alarming episode Wednesday when he appeared to freeze for half a minute while answering reporter questions.
Dr. Brian P. Monahan said he consulted with McConnell and has also spoken with McConnell’s neurology team, and informed the Republican leader that he is medically clear to continue with his schedule. Monahan did not say he examined McConnell himself.
“After evaluating yesterday’s incident, I have informed Leader McConnell that he is medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned,” Monahan said. “Occasional lightheadedness is not uncommon in concussion recovery and can also be expected as a result of dehydration.”
“Lightheadedness” is what McConnell’s office suggested was the cause shortly after Wednesday’s episode.
The release of the physician’s statement comes amid some calls for transparency after the second such incident in a matter of weeks.
McConnell suffered a concussion and a fractured rib after a fall earlier this year in Washington. He was hospitalized for several days and underwent inpatient rehabilitation before returning to the Senate.
On Wednesday, McConnell was at an event in his home state of Kentucky when he suddenly froze at the podium.
The Republican leader been asked about whether he would run for another term in 2026 when he stopped speaking and stared ahead for roughly 30 seconds. Aides then approached him, with one telling reporters they “needed a minute.”
It was the second time in as many months that the 81-year-old McConnell became temporarily unresponsive in front of the cameras. His office attributed the moments to lightheadedness and had said little else until Thursday’s statement from Monahan.
After the incident, an aide for McConnell said the senator felt fine and would consult a physician before his next event as a precaution.
McConnell on Wednesday went on to participate in a fundraiser with Republican Rep. Jim Banks. Banks posted a photograph of him and McConnell, stating they had a “wide-ranging discussion” about the country’s future.
Still, the episode raised questions and concerns about McConnell’s health. Doctors told ABC News that anyone who experiences similar symptoms should see a doctor immediately.
“Being unable to answer a common question and then not being aware even upon further prompting, is a red flag to warrant a thorough medical evaluation, including a neurologic work up,” said Dr. Ann Murray, who is the Movement Disorders division chief in the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) Department of Neurology at West Virginia University.
Neurologist Leah Croll told ABC News her main concern when it came to such episodes is safety and the potential for them to occur during a dangerous circumstance.
“For example, I worry about patients, say, crossing the street. Now, that may not be a concern specifically for Senator McConnell,” Croll said. “But the general idea is that the more frequently events are happening, the more I worry about serious consequences.”
President Joe Biden said he spoke to McConnell Thursday and that he was his “old self on the telephone.”
“Having a little understanding of dealing with neurosurgeons — one of the leading women on my staff, her husband’s a neurosurgeon as well — It’s not at all unusual to have a response that sometimes happens to Mitch when you’ve had a severe concussion,” Biden said. “As part of its part of the recovery. And so I’m confident he’s going to be back to his old self.”
When asked by ABC News if he had any concern about McConnell’s ability to fulfill his responsibilities in the Senate, Biden responded: “No, I don’t.”
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