Walorski was killed in a motor-vehicle accident in August, but Biden called for her multiple times — asking where she was — during his opening remarks at the White House’s Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. Prior to her death, Walorski had been one of four co-sponsors of a bill to fund the conference.
“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” Biden scanned the audience, apparently searching for the Indiana Republican.
Not surprisingly, Jean-Pierre fielded questions about the gaffe during Wednesday’s briefing.
.@CeciliaVega: “What happened at the Hunger Event today? [Biden] appeared to look around…for…a member of Congress [Jackie Walorski] who passed away last month…What happened there?”
KJP: He “was acknowledging her incredible work…She was on his mind…top of mind” pic.twitter.com/LhEECd4QBR
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 28, 2022
ABC’s Cecilia Vega was first to ask about the president’s flub, saying, “What happened at the Hunger Event today? The president appeared to look around the room for an audience member, a member of Congress who passed away last month. Did he think she might be in the room? What happened there?”
Jean-Pierre explained that Biden had only wanted to recognize the work Walorski had done — and that he planned to visit with her family and sign a bill in her honor later in the week — adding, “she was on his mind, she was top of mind.”
Several other reporters pressed the issue, noting that even if the late congresswoman was “top of mind,” it seemed odd that the president did not appear to remember that she had passed away.
Reporter: "The confusing part is why, if she and the family is top of mind, does the president think that she's living and in the room?"
KJP: "I don't find that confusing."
Reporter: "I have John Lennon top of mind just about every day but I'm not looking around for him." pic.twitter.com/VUrXCmpcgl
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 28, 2022
“The confusing part is why, if she and the family is top of mind, does the president think that she’s living and in the room?” another reporter asked.
“I don’t find that confusing,” Jean-Pierre pushed back, saying again that Biden had spent so much time and effort reviewing Walorski’s work and preparing to recognize her that her name was just the one that came to mind while he was speaking.
“I have John Lennon top of mind just about every day but I’m not looking around for him,” the reporter shot back.
“When you sign a bill for John Lennon as president, then we can have this conversation,” Jean-Pierre replied, moving quickly along to the next question.