White House Says Biden Is Not Being Treated For Parkinson's

In a tense exchange with reporters Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that President Joe Biden is not being treated for Parkinson’s disease and sparred with journalists asking why a specialist in the condition had been visiting the White House.

The news conference was dominated by questions about Biden’s health after mediareports on the White House visitor log found that a neurologist with expertise in Parkinson’s disease had visited eight times from the summer of 2023 through this spring.

The president is not being treated for the neurodegenerative disease, Jean-Pierre said, and his medical exam in February found no evidence of it.

But things grew biting between the press secretary and reporters when Jean-Pierre refused to confirm that the specialist, Dr. Kevin Cannard, had even visited, much less explain why he had made repeated visits.

“We’re miffed around here about how information has been shared with the press corps,” CBS News correspondent Ed O’Keefe said.

“It doesn’t matter how hard you push me, it doesn’t matter how angry you get with me, I’m not going to confirm a name,” Jean-Pierre replied. “It doesn’t matter if it’s even in the log. I’m not going to do that from here. What I can share with you is the president has seen a neurologist for his physical three times.”

Following Monday’s reports on the visits from Cannard, who works for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the White House emphasized that doctors visit many people at the White House.

“A wide variety of specialists from the Walter Reed system visit the White House complex to treat the thousands of military personnel who work on the grounds,” Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement.

In a separate White House statement released Monday night, the president’s physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, said Cannard’s visits don’t represent examinations of only the president.

“Prior to the pandemic, and following its end, [Cannard] has held regular Neurology clinics at the White House Medical Clinic in support of the thousands of active-duty members assigned in support of White House operations,” O’Connor’s letter reads. “Many military personnel experience neurological issues related to their service, and Dr. Cannard regularly visits the WHMU as part of this General Neurology Practice.”

O’Connor added that Biden “has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical.” During his last physical, on Feb. 28, Biden showed no signs of Parkinson’s, according to the letter.

Questions about Biden’s cognitive and physical health have been swirling ever since the president’s disastrous debate performance against presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump last month. On more than one occasion throughout the debate, Biden appeared to lose his train of thought, stumble over his words and experience confusion.

Midway through the debate, the White House shared with reporters that Biden was suffering from a cold. Later, Jean-Pierre added that his performance was impacted by a busy travel schedule.

Parkinson’s, a disease of the central nervous system, is generally characterized by tremors, rigidity and trouble with balance. In its advanced stages, it may result in dementia, psychosis and other behavioral changes.

Though he’s admitted to a bad debate performance, Biden has pushed back against calls from within his own party to drop out of the presidential race.