President Biden tripped and fell after delivering a speech and handing out diplomas to graduates of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on Thursday. Mr. Biden, who is in his 80s, received help and appeared to recover quickly.
Mr. Biden’s fall was captured on video and shared on social media. He appears to stumble, fall to his knees and grab his hands on the stage floor. Several Air Force personnel and Secret Service agents helped him up and he returned to his seat.
Mr. Biden had just given a spirited speech to the Air Force graduates before helping to hand out the diplomas. He fell down after handing out the last diploma and returned to his seat.
“He’s fine,” White House communications director Ben LaBolt said in a tweet Thursday afternoon. “There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands.”
Awkward moments are not uncommon for presidents who spend much of their tenure in front of the cameras. President Gerald Ford was repeatedly roasted by comedians for tripping frequently during his presidency.
President Donald J. Trump, a day before his 74th birthday in 2020, appeared slow and unsteady as he walked down the ramp from the stage after the commencement ceremony at West Point, sparking online speculation about his health.
For Mr. Biden, who is already America’s oldest president and is asking voters for a second term that will last him until he is 86, a stumble early in Thursday’s election is likely to add even more questions about his physical condition.
The president’s White House physician acknowledged that Mr. Biden’s gait had stiffened significantly with age, resulting in a much slower and less steady gait. He has tripped in the past: In February, he tripped and caught his hands while boarding Air Force One on his way back from Warsaw.
Republicans have seized on the president’s stumbles as evidence that he is unfit for office, and some were quick to highlight Mr. Biden’s downfall on Thursday.
“We hope and wish Joe Biden a speedy recovery from any injuries he may have sustained, but we also wish the United States of America a speedy recovery from the injuries it has suffered because of Joe Biden and his policies,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis , a presidential candidate, said during remarks in New Hampshire on Thursday.
But people close to Mr. Biden, including many members of his staff, insist that he remains very healthy and often has the energy to get through long, grueling days. He exercises daily, they say, and is not overweight.
Mr. Biden himself acknowledged that questions about his age were legitimate, and before falling on Thursday, he included a joke about his age in his remarks to the graduates.
“When I was graduating from high school 300 years ago, I applied to the Naval Academy,” he said to laughter.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters traveling with the president as he returned to Washington from Colorado aboard Air Force One that the president was “absolutely fine.”
After returning to Washington, Mr. Biden appeared in good spirits. After hitting his head on the door frame of the presidential helicopter, he joked to reporters outside the White House about the fall, saying he was “loaded with sand” before he jumped once and got inside.