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(L-R) Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) reaches out to help Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) after McConnell froze and stopped talking at the microphones during a news conference after a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans U.S. Capitol 26, 2023, in Washington, D.C. | Source: Drew Angerer / Getty

The term “stroke” was trending on the social media app formerly known as Twitter in the immediate aftermath of Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appearing to be unwell as he attempted to speak during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Viral video footage shared on social media showed the 81-year-old U.S. Senator from Kentucky’s speech devolve into mumbles before he just froze up, staring blankly and silently straight ahead. His Republican colleagues were prompted to assist him away from the podium with the camera showing McConnell appearing to take small, slow steps away.

The optics prompted people on social media to suggest McConnell may have just suffered a stroke on live television.

After being escorted away, McConnell ultimately returned to the podium where he was quickly greeted by questions about his well-being. When asked if he was still capable of doing his job, McConnell responded with a noncommittal “yeah” without looking at the reporter who asked him the question.

“In all seriousness, I can’t believe they didn’t take McConnell right to the hospital. Because that looked like a stroke, and even if it wasn’t, those symptoms are “go to the hospital now” type stuff,” one person posted.

Another post asked: “Call me rude but it seems like the D.C. political press is really not that curious about Mitch McConnell clearly having some kind of medical incident in front of live cameras?”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the telltale signs of a stroke include “sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.”

The incident on Capitol Hill came just about three months after McConnell returned to work following a six-week-long absence as he recovered from a concussion and rib injury sustained when he fell in a hotel in Washington, D.C. In that instance, he was hospitalized for five days before moving to a rehabilitation center to finish healing. McConnell worked from home briefly before returning to Capitol Hill.

The incident is likely to renew the debate about age and term limits for elected officials serving in the upper levels of government. Republicans have been particularly critical of President Joe Biden and cited his age of 80 years — one year younger than McConnell — as a reason he should be disqualified from seeking a second term in the White House.

Beyond age, Republicans have also criticized Pennsylvania Sen John Fetterman, 53, who suffered a stroke last year while campaigning for his current office and missed weeks of work while treating depression.

This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.


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