6 takeaways from President Joe Biden’s high-stakes ABC interview | CNN Politics (2024)

Washington CNN

A defiant President Joe Biden on Friday downplayed his poor performance in last week’s debate in what had become a high-stakes interview on ABC, as questions swirled over the future of his candidacy.

During his interview with anchor George Stephanopoulos, Biden shot down any notion of dropping from the ticket while also offering shifting excuses for his poor performance.

The conversation was Biden’s first televised interview since his debate performance, a key moment for his political future as a mounting list of Democrats – lawmakers, donors and voters – express concerns about the viability of his candidacy.

Here are six takeaways from Biden’s interview with ABC News.

Biden says debate was a ‘bad night,’ not a bigger problem

The president said in the interview that he was “sick” and “feeling terrible” before the debate. Asked whether it was a bad episode or a sign of a more serious condition, Biden dismissed those concerns.

“It was a bad episode. No indication of any serious condition. I didn’t listen to my instincts in terms of preparing, and I had a bad night,” he said.

In the interview, Biden gave more details about how he was feeling at the time of the debate, saying he was fatigued from illness and had even been tested for Covid-19. The White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s inquiry as to whether the president took the test before or after the debate.

He said, “I was feeling terrible. As a matter of fact, the docs with me I asked if they did a Covid test, they were trying to figure out what’s wrong. They did a test to see whether or not I had some infection, you know, a virus. I didn’t. I just had a really bad cold.”

The comment about his illness marked the latest turn in the White House’s description of the president’s physical condition during the debate. White House officials told reporters during the debate that the president had a cold, and then on Wednesday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed the idea that Biden had been seen by his doctor, repeatedly saying that the president has had no medical exams since his February physical.

“It’s a cold, guys. It’s a cold,” she said at the time. “I know that it affects everybody differently. We’ve all had colds, and so no, he was not checked out by the doctor.”

A day later, the White House confirmed that the president had, in fact, seen a doctor about his illness, and on Friday Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One that Bidenhad a “verbal check-in” with his doctor after the debate.

She cast Biden’s check-in as “a conversation” with his physician, Kevin O’Connor, after reporters noted that the president told a group of Democratic governors that he saw a doctor.

The president takes ownership of poor performance, but offers a new excuse

The president said he has not watched a replay of his performance. When he was asked whether he knew how badly it was going, he said it was “nobody’s fault but mine.”

As he answered the question, Biden offered a confusing tangent on New York Times polling.

“I prepared what I usually would do sitting down as I did come back as foreign leaders or National Security Council – for explicit detail. And I realized, about partway through that – you know, all that I get quoted is The New York Times had me down 10 points before the debate, nine now, or whatever the hell it is. The fact of the matter is that – what I looked at is he also lied 28 times,” he said.

Pressed on his performance, he said, “Well I was just having a bad night.”

But later in the interview, Biden offered a different explanation. He said he was distracted by Trump talking out of turn even though Trump’s microphone was muted.

“It came to me I was having a bad night when I realized that even when I was answering a question, even when they turned his mic off, he was still shouting. And I let it distract me. I’m not blaming it on that, but I realized that I just wasn’t in control,” Biden told Stephanopoulos.

Biden andTrumpand their teams agreed to the rules ahead of the debate.

6 takeaways from President Joe Biden’s high-stakes ABC interview | CNN Politics (1)

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta reacts to Biden's comment on getting an independent medical evaluation

02:23 - Source: CNN

Biden won’t take a cognitive test and release it to voters

Biden said that “no one said I had to” havecognitive and neurological exams, telling Stephanopoulos that “I get a full neurological test every day” – referring to the demands of his job.

“I have medical doctors traveling everywhere. Every president does, as you know. Medical doctors from the best of the world travel with me everywhere I go. I have an ongoing assessment of what I’m doing. They don’t hesitate to tell me if they think there’s something else is wrong,” he said.

When asked whether he’s hadcognitivetests and an exam by a neurologist, Biden said no.

“No one said I had to. … They said I’m good.”

Inan analysispublished Friday, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta – a practicing neurosurgeon – urged Biden to undergo thoroughcognitiveand neurological testing and to share his results.

Gupta wrote that it was concerning to watch Biden’s performance at the debate. Detailed testing “can help determine whether there is a simpler explanation for the symptoms displayed or if there is something more concerning,” he said.

Biden denies polls show him losing to Trump

Asked by Stephanopoulos whether he was being honest with himself about his ability to beat Trump, Biden said, “Yes. Yes, yes, yes.”

He pointed to previouspollsthat showed he couldn’t win in 2020 as proof and subsequent down-ballot elections, denying extensive polling that reflects a race where he is trailing.

Pressed on his low approval rating and whether it would be tougher to win four years later, Biden said, “Not when you’re running against a pathological liar. Not when he hasn’t been challenged in the way he’s about to be challenged.”

The president said that all of hispollsters characterize the race as a “toss up” as he began to point to specificpollsbefore trailing off.

Biden brushes off nervous Dems: Only the ‘Lord Almighty’ could get him to leave the race

Asked during his interview whether he would step down if he became convinced he could not beat Trump, Biden said he would only do so “if the Lord Almighty comes down” and tells him to.

“If the Lord Almighty came down and said, ‘Joe, get out of the race,’ I’d get out of the race,” Biden said.

“The Lord Almighty’s not coming down,” added Biden, who is a devout Catholic.

Stephanopoulos responded: “I agree that the Lord Almighty is not going to come down. But if you are told reliably from your allies, and your friends and supporters in the Democratic Party, in the House, in the Senate that they’re concerned you’re going to lose the House and the Senate if you stay in, what will you do?”

Biden declined to answer the question. “It’s not going to happen,” he added.

The president later questioned whether any other Democratic leader would have his foreign policy acumen.

“Who’s going to be able to holdNATOtogether like me? Who’s going to be able to be in a position where I’m able to keep the Pacific basin in a position where we’re at least check being in China now? Who’s going to – who’s going to do that? Who has that reach?” Biden asked.

Four Democratic members of Congress have called on Biden to step aside. Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey issued a statement Friday asking Biden to “carefully evaluate” whether he is the party’s best choice to defeat Donald Trump. And Virginia Sen. Mark Warner is looking to get Senate Democrats on the same page about the future ofBiden’s reelection bid, sources told CNN, putting further pressure on the White House.

Warner, who is taking on a leadership role in the effort, is reaching a place where he thinks it is time for Biden to suspend his reelection campaign, a source familiar with his efforts told CNN.

Asked about Warner’s efforts, Biden responded: “Mark is a good man. … He also tried to get the nomination.” Warner had been considered a vice presidential contender in 2008, the slot that Biden would eventually win, but withdrew himself from consideration.

“Mark’s not – Mark and I have a different perspective,” Biden told Stephanopoulos.

Asked whether he would reconsider his stance if more high-ranking Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries pushed him to drop out, Biden responded: “They’re not going to do that.”

6 takeaways from President Joe Biden’s high-stakes ABC interview | CNN Politics (2)

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‘Biden speaks out about campaign after rally in Wisconsin

01:20 - Source: CNN

Biden gets fired up and shows off his energy at Wisconsin rally

Biden came face-to-face with voter concerns just before the ABC interview, as he was taking the stage at a campaign rally in Wisconsin. A rally attendee unfurled a sign reading, “Pass the torch, Joe.” The sign was visible for a few moments before someone else tried to cover part of it with a Biden-Harris sign.

Biden’s speech during that rally was animated and energetic – though he seemed to realize that each of his words would be parsed and carefully scrutinized in this politically crucial period. He vowed to “beat Trump again in 2020” before quickly realizing his mistake and correcting himself: “By the way, we’re gonna do it again in 2024.” Slamming Trump’s economic policy, Biden said his opponent “wants another 5 billion - trillion, trillion, not billion - $5 trillion tax cut.”

He directly addressed criticisms about his age: “I wasn’t too old to create over 50 million new jobs, to make sure 21 million Americans are insured under the Affordable Care Act, to beat Big Pharma. … Was I too old to relieve student debt for nearly 5 million Americans? Too old to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court of the United States of America? To sign the Respect for Marriage Act?”

Biden said unnamed forces are “trying to push him out of the race.”

“Well, let me say this as quick as I can,” he added. “I’m staying in the race.”

That point was punctuated by the song that played as Biden’s speech concluded: Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Friday.

6 takeaways from President Joe Biden’s high-stakes ABC interview | CNN Politics (2024)

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