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White House seeks to turn the page after Bidens debate performance with events, interview

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(WASHINGTON) — The White House said Tuesday it wants to “turn the page” on President Joe Biden’s debate performance last Thursday, which stoked renewed concerns about his age and mental fitness and set off alarm bells among some Democrats about his ability to carry on as the party’s nominee.

Biden has yet to take any questions from reporters on his politically disastrous debate showing against 2024 rival Donald Trump. That continued Tuesday as he visited an emergency operations center in Washington to discuss extreme heat and new workplace protections, where he largely read from a teleprompter and did speak off-the-cuff as many critics said would be a true test of his competence.

That will change on Friday when he sits for his first television interview since the debate with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

The White House, seeking to change the narrative before then, also announced a flurry of campaign stops in the coming week that will get Biden on the road and in front of voters.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday that Biden will speak with Democratic lawmakers and governors on Wednesday to address their concerns before traveling to battleground states this weekend.

Biden will be in Wisconsin on Friday and Pennsylvania on Sunday, Jean-Pierre said, and will give a solo news conference during next week’s NATO summit that he’s hosting in Washington.

“We’re going to turn the page,” she said. “We’re going to get out there. Across the country, Americans are going to see him for themselves.”

But during the nearly hour-long briefing, Jean-Pierre faced a flurry of tough questions about the debate, the panic it’s caused among some Democrats and Biden’s overall fitness to serve.

“First of all, I want to say we understand the concerns,” Jean-Pierre said. “We get it. The president did not have a great night, as you all know.”

“But I will say this, and the president said this over the past couple of days, certainly right after the debate: He knows how to do the job,” Jean-Pierre said, “and he knows how to do the job not because he says it, because his record proves it.”

Jean-Pierre said “bad night” 13 times as she reiterated that Biden had a cold and that his record over the past three and a half years speaks for itself.

Still, some Democrats are continuing to express concern after the debate performance. Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett on Tuesday became the first Democratic member of Congress to call on Biden to withdraw as the party’s presidential nominee.

ABC News Senior Congressional Rachel Scott asked about former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comments earlier Tuesday that it’s fair for people to ask whether Biden was facing “an episode or a condition.”

“Which one is it?” Scott asked.

“Well, what I can tell you is that he had a cold and a bad night. I would not see this as an episode,” Jean-Pierre responded. “I would see this as what it was and what we believe it to be, which is, it was a bad night. And he did, on top of that, he had a cold. And that is the reality of the situation.” She said he hadn’t been taking cold medication.

Jean-Pierre was also asked directly about the president’s health records and whether anything is being hidden from the public eye.

“Absolutely not,” she said.

Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the president’s physician, said after Biden’s physical in February that he was a “healthy, active, robust 81-year-old male, who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.”

Jean-Pierre was also asked repeatedly about whether Biden will release results from any mental acuity tests.

“The medical team said it is not warranted in this case. We have put forward a thorough, transparent, annual report on his health. So, they have said that is not warranted. It is not necessary. Again, we understand, we understand. We’re not taking away from what you all saw, what the American people saw. We understand, it was a bad night,” she said.

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