Mitch McConnell escorted away from press conference after falling silent

The Senate minority leader left the podium before returning to take questions from reporters.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s weekly press conference came to an abrupt halt Wednesday afternoon when he appeared to lose his train of thought while addressing reporters.

McConnell had just begun speaking about work on the Pentagon funding bill when he paused, midsentence, for nearly 30 seconds. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., approached McConnell and asked if he wanted to say anything else to the press, then escorted him away from the podium. Sen. John Thune, N-N.D., the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, took over the press conference.

Prior fall

McConnell, 81, returned to work in April after a six-week absence, following a fall on March 8 at a hotel in Washington, D.C., in which he suffered a concussion and a fractured rib. Before returning to Capitol Hill, he completed inpatient physical therapy.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, looking blank, is helped by, on his left, Sen. John Barrasso, Sen. John Thune and Sen. Joni Ernst.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is helped by, from left, Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., John Thune, R-S.D., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, after freezing at a Capitol news conference on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

'I'm fine'

Twelve minutes after the pause during Wednesday's press conference, McConnell returned to the podium and was asked if the incident was related to his injury earlier this year.

“I’m fine,” McConnell responded. When asked whether he was still fully able to do his job, he said, "Yeah." A McConnell aide told Yahoo News that the senator "felt light-headed" and stepped away for a moment.

Speaking after McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was asked about the incident and replied, “I always wish Leader McConnell well.”

Later that day, McConnell chatted briefly with reporters, telling them that President Joe Biden had called him regarding the fall.

“The president called to check up on me, and I told him I got sandbagged,” McConnell joked, referencing a remark Biden made after tripping over a sandbag at a graduation ceremony last month at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Lingering health concerns

Barrasso told reporters following the news conference that he had "wanted to make sure everything was fine" with McConnell and that he was "concerned" about the minority leader's health following his injury earlier this year, the Associated Press reported.

“I said I was concerned when he fell and hit his head a number of months ago and was hospitalized," Barrasso said Wednesday. "And I think he's made a remarkable recovery, he's doing a great job leading our conference and was able to answer every question the press asked him today.”

McConnell has served in the Senate since 1985 and has been the chamber’s Republican leader since 2007.