United States President Joe Biden has defended his memory after a special counsel report into his handling of classified documents renewed scrutiny of his fitness for office ahead of the presidential election in November.
In emotional and at times angry remarks, Biden took aim at Special Counsel Robert Hur for finding that his memory was so “severely limited” when interviewed by prosecutors that he could not remember the year he began serving as vice president under President Barack Obama or the year his son Beau died.
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“There’s even reference that I don’t remember when my son died,” Biden said during a press conference at the White House on Thursday. “How in the hell dare he raise that?”
“I don’t need anyone to remind me when he passed away,” Biden said of his son, who passed away from brain cancer in 2015.
Biden, who is the oldest US president in history and would be 86 at the end of a second term if reelected, said his memory is “fine” and “has not gotten worse.”
Biden, who is expected to face off against former President Donald Trump in November, said he had undergone hours of interviews with prosecutors in the immediate aftermath of the “international crisis” that was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel.
He also disputed some of Hur’s assertions about his culpability in mishandling sensitive documents, denying that he had shared classified information with his ghostwriter.
Hur’s report released on Thursday said Biden would not face criminal charges for removing classified documents at the end of the Obama presidency because he had cooperated with investigators and would appear sympathetic to a jury.
“Mr Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” Hur wrote in his report.
Hur, a former federal prosecutor during the Trump administration, was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to probe Biden’s handling of classified material after the discovery of sensitive documents at his private office in Washington, DC.
Subsequent searches of his home in Delaware and the University of Delaware turned up more sensitive documents that had been improperly removed.
Biden’s age has emerged as a serious concern for US voters and Democratic Party officials, who have for the most part shared their qualms in private discussions with colleagues and journalists.
In a poll released by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research last year, 77 percent of respondents, including 69 percent of Democrats, said Biden is too old to govern until 2028.
US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, said that Biden’s press conference following the special counsel report showed he is “not fit” to be president.
Biden has made a series of gaffes in recent days that have refocused attention on his age and mental acuity.
On Wednesday, Biden appeared to confuse former German chancellors Angela Merkel and Helmut Kohl when he told a campaign event he met Kohl at a G7 meeting in 2021, four years after Kohl’s death.
The mix-up came days after Biden recalled speaking with French President Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996, at the same G7 event, instead of current leader Emmanuel Macron.
During his remarks defending his memory on Thursday, Biden also referred to Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the “president of Mexico”.