Mitch McConnell has fallen multiple times this year, uses wheelchair: What we know

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is once again being hounded with questions about his health after freezing for roughly 28 seconds during a press conference on Wednesday.

The 81-year-old Kentucky Republican, who is the longest-serving party leader in Senate history, had to be escorted away from a lectern by colleagues in a startling moment that came four months after he suffered a concussion and a broken rib from a fall in March.

But McConnell has fallen at least two other times this year — once at a Washington, D.C. airport on July 14 and another time during a foreign trip in February — a source close to the senator who is familiar with his work habits confirmed with USA TODAY.

The source, who asked for anonymity in order to speak freely, noted the GOP leader has still been walking around the Capitol for the past few months, delivering floor remarks and leading media stakeouts. But as a safeguard, the source said, McConnell has been using a wheelchair in certain circumstances.

“This is simply a prudent and precautionary measure in a crowded area,” a McConnell spokesperson told USA TODAY on Thursday when asked about the wheelchair.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell speaks after leaders of the House and Senate awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to Capitol Police and other first responders who defended the Capitol against the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell speaks after leaders of the House and Senate awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to Capitol Police and other first responders who defended the Capitol against the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

What about the other falls?

Earlier this month, McConnell tripped and fell while getting off of a plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the source close to the GOP leader confirmed. He was not seriously injured and was later seen at the Capitol, according to NBC News, which originally reported the story hours after Wednesday’s incident.

McConnell also fell in February during a trip in Finland as part of a U.S. delegation, the source also confirmed. He reportedly dusted himself off and continued his activities, according to CNN, which first reported that fall.

Other lawmakers who were part of the delegation said the incident did not affect the meeting with Finland’s president or other foreign officials.

“Absolutely not. We were all walking in together. It was a dimly lit room and there was a threshold that if I had been the first through, I’d have probably hit the floor,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told USA TODAY.

McConnell’s concussion in March

McConnell, a polio survivor, has for years walked with a noticeable limp and often has been assisted by aides and others when walking up and down the stairs.

In 2019, he tripped and fell at his home in Louisville, Ky., suffering a shoulder fracture.

But the most serious injury that we know about came this year after a fall at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Washington, D.C, which sidelined McConnell for roughly six weeks. In that incident he slammed his head and suffered a concussion and broken ribs.

Did McConnell see a doctor?

A concussion is another name for a traumatic brain injury that impact a person’s vision, balance, speech, memory, emotions and more.

What’s unclear is what, if any, medical treatment McConnell has received for the March injuries or any other fall that he’s suffered this year.

The Republican leader’s office has not responded to USA TODAY’s questions on whether he has seen a physician or plans to see one after Wednesday’s startling episode.

Experts describe concussions as invisible injuries that can be hard to properly recognize or treat with about 90% of the symptoms resolving within two weeks. But in some case those symptoms also linger for weeks with persistent post-concussion syndrome persisting for more than three months.

McConnell, one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, has stiff armed questions about his health saying he is fine when peppered with questions by reporters.

McConnell: ‘I got sandbagged’

But the longtime senator, first elected in 1984, did joke about the incident on Wednesday when telling reporters that he spoke with President Joe Biden, a political foe and personal friend who has also been dogged by questions about his age and health.

“The president called to check up on me, and I told him I got sandbagged,” McConnell said.

The comment refers to Biden’s well publicized fall at the U.S. Air Force Academy commencement in June, which the 80-year-old president appeared to trip on a black sandbag that was on the stage.

Reporter Ken Tran contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What happened to Mitch McConnell? What we know about falls, wheelchair

Leave a Comment