Biden vows to fight on, as White House denies Parkinson’s treatment

US president dismisses pressure to bow out of 2024 election race, saying he is ‘best person’ to beat Donald Trump.

United States President Joe Biden has again rebuffed calls to end his re-election bid amid concerns over his age and health, as the White House denied that he is being treated for Parkinson’s disease.

In a letter to Democratic Party lawmakers on Monday, Biden, 81, said he is “firmly committed to staying in this race, to running this race to the end, and to beating Donald Trump”.

“I have heard the concerns that people have – their good faith fears and worries about what is at stake in this election,” Biden said in the letter.

“I can respond to all this by saying clearly and unequivocally: I wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024.”

In an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe show later on Monday, Biden insisted that party elites, rather than “average Democrats”, are driving calls for him to quit the race.

“They’re big names, but I don’t care what those big names think. They were wrong in 2020. They were wrong in 2022 about the red wave. They were wrong in 2024,” Biden said.

“Come out with me and watch people react.”

At a later media briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre denied that Biden is being treated for Parkinson’s disease following media reports that a specialist in the illness visited the White House at least eight times between August and March.

“Has the president been treated for Parkinson’s? No. Is he being treated for Parkinson’s? No, he’s not. Is he taking medication for Parkinson’s? No,” Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre refused to answer questions about the purpose of the visits by Kevin Cannard, a doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, citing privacy and security concerns.

Jean-Pierre, however, pointed to Biden’s most recent doctor’s letter, issued in February, which said “an extremely detailed neurologic exam” found no signs consistent with a stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis.

Political commentators and Democratic legislators have raised concerns over Biden’s ability to serve a second term in office after he delivered a disastrous performance in a debate against Trump on January 27.

The Democratic president appeared exhausted and lost his train of thought during the event, prompting questions about his health and viability as a candidate in November’s election.

Adam Smith, a Congressman in the state of Washington, on Monday became the sixth Democratic lawmaker to publicly call on Biden to step aside.

“The president’s performance in the debate was alarming to watch and the American people have made it clear they no longer see him as a credible candidate to serve four more years as president,” Smith said in a statement.

“Since the debate, the president has not seriously addressed these concerns.”

US media outlets have reported that more Democrats also have expressed concerns privately.

Biden faces a tough election battle against Trump, with recent opinion polls showing the former Republican president in the lead in key swing states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Opinion polls have consistently shown that most voters believe that Biden is too old to serve a second term.

While Biden has come under mounting pressure from within his own party, he has so far managed to keep most of the Democratic top brass publicly onside.

Prominent Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and influential progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on Monday reiterated their support for the president.

Reporting from the White House on Monday afternoon, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said Democratic Party leaders on Capitol Hill are in “listening mode”.

They will be meeting on Tuesday for a weekly policy luncheon, Halkett reported, and this week’s talks will be geared towards figuring out the party’s next steps.

“What we’re hearing is there’s kind of an unofficial deadline,” she said. “Joe Biden has really until this Friday to prove to the Democratic Party that he can do this job.”

The Democratic Party will formally announce its 2024 presidential candidate at the party’s national convention in Chicago in August.

Republicans, for their part, are set to confirm Trump – who in May became the first ex-president ever convicted of a crime in US history – as their candidate at the party’s convention next week.

Source: Al Jazeera