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McConnell freezes again during news conference, this time in Covington

Mitch McConnell speaking in Louisville.
J. Tyler Franklin
Mitch McConnell speaking in Louisville.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze up during a news conference in Covington on Wednesday.
It’s the second time the 81-year-old Republican publicly suffered from an apparent medical episode in a little over a month.

Sen. Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze momentarily at an event in Covington, Ky., after having been asked by a reporter about running for reelection in 2026.

It's the second time that the 81-year-old Republican seemed briefly unable to speakin public in a little over a month.

At Wednesday's press conference in Northern Kentucky, McConnell trailed off and paused after he was asked whether he would run for reelection. A staffer then joined McConnell at the podium and repeated the question for him.

In all, the six-term senator silently held on to the podium silently for about 30 seconds and failed to answer the posed question.

McConnell then fielded two more questions. In response to a question about Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's bid for governor to unseat Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, he said he thought it would be a "very close race." When asked about former President Donald Trump's indictment in Georgia he said he "wasn't going to comment on the presidential race." Both times, an aide repeated the reporters' questions for the senator.

According to McConnell spokesperson Stephanie Penn, the senator was feeling "momentarily lightheaded" during the news conference. A member of McConnell's office said he would consult a doctor before his next engagement.

At a weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol in late July, McConnell appeared to suffer a similar incident. He froze mid-sentence for roughly 30 seconds and then was led away. He returned to answer more questions afterwards.

When reporters asked him about that incident and whether it was related to his health issues after a fall earlier this year when he suffered a concussion, he said, "I'm fine," and told reporters he was able to do his job.

McConnell has appeared and spoken at several events since then, including the raucous Fancy Farm political picnic in western Kentucky, where he promised that it wouldn't be his last appearance.

In a news briefing later Wednesday, President Biden said he had just heard about McConnell's latest episode when asked about it by a reporter.

"We have disagreements politically, but he's a good friend," Biden said. "So I'm going to try and get in touch with him later this afternoon. I don't know enough to know."

McConnell's health concerns have come amid increased scrutiny of the aging members of Congress. It also raised questions about changes to how Kentucky replaces its U.S. senators in the event of a vacancy.

While the U.S. Constitution allows legislatures to empower governors to appoint replacements, a select few states have placed additional restrictions. In Kentucky, the state legislature passed a law in 2021 requiring the governor to choose from a list of three potential appointees selected by the party of the departing senator. That change happened in 2021, shortly after McConnell won re-election.

Sylvia is Kentucky Public Radio's Capitol reporter. Email her at
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