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Mitch McConnell Suffers Frightening Episode During Press Conference

Mitch McConnell Suffers Frightening Episode During Press Conference

Sen. John Barrasso and Sen. Mitch McConnell

The Republican leader suddenly stopped talking and stared off into the distance during his weekly press conference.

During Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s weekly press conference in Washington, D.C., Wednesday afternoon, he appeared to suffer a medical incident that left him temporarily unable to speak.

A few words into McConnell’s conversation about the Department of Defense funding bill, he paused for a lengthy time midsentence, requiring others to intervene.

“This week [there’s] been good bipartisan cooperation in a string of uhh,” McConnell began before stopping to speak and looking off into the distance with a vacant stare and not blinking.

For nearly 23 seconds, McConnell and fellow Republican Senate leaders lined up behind him and stood silently as it became clear that the senator was unwell and clearly in distress.

“Hey Mitch,” Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso said as he stepped up to the GOP leader and grabbed his wrist to get his attention.

“Anything else you want to say, or should we just go back to your office?” he asked McConnell, who appeared confused by the question. “Do you want to say anything else to the press?”

McConnell glanced at Barrasso and turned, seemingly indicating he wanted to step away.

After stepping aside, McConnell was escorted out of public view.

The press conference continued with North Dakota Sen. John Thune taking over for McConnell, who had retreated to his nearby office with staff assistance.

Twelve minutes after the episode began, McConnell returned to the press conference and was asked if the incident had anything to do with his injury earlier this year.

In response, McConnell said, “I’m fine.”

“Yeah,” he replied when asked if he could still perform his duties.

McConnell continued the press conference, responding to questions.

The incident sparked alarm by observers who opined that it appeared McConnell showed signs of a stroke or a seizure.

Though the episode was difficult to watch and alarmed those who observed it, nobody called 911 or sought emergency medical care, leading to online criticism of the situation.

In April, McConnell returned to work after a six-week absence after falling in a Washington, D.C., luxury hotel. He suffered both a concussion and a fractured rib. McConnell spent time in inpatient rehab before returning to the Hill.

According to McConnell’s aides, McConnell felt “lightheaded” after Wednesday's incident and took a moment off but was “sharp” when he returned to answer questions.

Asked by reporters following the incident, the Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, of New York, responded to a question about what happened to the Kentucky Republican.

“I always wish Leader McConnell well,” Schumer said.

Initially elected to the Senate in 1985, McConnell has led the Republican Party in the chamber since 2007.

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