Biden refuses to take a cognitive or neurological test in his first post-debate TV interview

In his first televised interview since his widely criticized debate performance last week, President Joe Biden would not commit to taking a cognitive or neurological test and releasing the results.

Biden argued that he’s tested daily, referring to his presidential responsibilities.

“I get a full neurological test every day,” Biden told anchor George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

When pressed if he has had a cognitive test, the president said, “No, no one said I had to.”

During the 22-minute interview, Biden took responsibility for his stumbles in last week’s debate and argued that he underperformed because he was sick.

“Nobody’s fault but mine,” he said.

The president reiterated multiple times that the debate was nothing more than “a bad night.”

“It’s a bad episode. No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted,” Biden said. “I didn’t listen to my instincts in terms of preparing, and it was a bad night.”

When asked why several days of preparation at Camp David were not enough, Biden responded, “Because I was sick, I was feeling terrible.”

Asked whether he watched a video of the debate, the president said, “I don’t think I did, no.”

Biden rejected Stephanopoulos’ assessment of his bleak polling numbers, saying “I don’t buy that” when pressed on trailing former President Donald Trump.

Biden also pointed to predictions of a red wave for the 2022 midterms that never materialized, though he misstated the year.

“Remember 2024 — 2020, the red wave was coming,” Biden said. “Before the vote, I said, ‘That’s not gonna happen. We’re gonna win.’ We did better in an off-year than almost any incumbent president ever has done.”

Biden also continued rejecting the possibility of stepping aside, saying that Democratic leaders in Congress had recommended that he stay in the race.

“Look, I mean, if the Lord Almighty came down and said, ‘Joe, get out of the race,’ I’ll get out of the race,” Biden said. “The Lord Almighty’s not coming down.”

When asked how he will feel in January if he stays in the race and Trump is elected, Biden responded, “I feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the goodest job as I know I can do — that’s what this is about.”

The interview comes at a pivotal time in the general election cycle, as some Democrats have called on Biden to drop out of the 2024 presidential race and as speculation continues about who could replace him as the party’s nominee.

Some Democrats said they weren’t convinced that the interview achieved the campaign’s goals.

“It made me sad. Completely out of touch with reality and insulated from truth,” said one House Democrat who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I’ll be breaking my silence soon.”

Another House Democrat said that “this seems like it has an inevitability to it,” and yet another told NBC News, “we’re doomed.”

“Refusal to take a cognitive test is an issue,” another Democrat in the House told NBC News in a text message.

A growing number of Democrats are calling for Biden to drop out.

Shortly before the interview aired, Rep. Mike Quigley called for Biden to step aside. Reps. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, previously said Biden should not pursue another term.

Some of Biden’s closest allies, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have called on the 81-year-old president to prove that he’s up to taking on a second term in the White House by holding more events and showing him unscripted rather than reading from a teleprompter most of the time.

The next week of events for Biden is considered to be “absolutely critical,” two Biden aides and one former official with knowledge of the discussions told NBC News before Friday’s interview.

There is no plan for a “major shift” in strategy, the sources said, beyond what the White House has already telegraphed for the next several days. There may be additional interviews and appearances added to the president’s schedule though, they said.

The president is aware that he needs to perform well in public appearances over the next few days, and that anything short of that could cement public opinion that he should leave the race, according to the sources.

During Friday’s campaign rally in Wisconsin, Biden continued to reject speculation about bowing out of the 2024 presidential contest.

“Let me say it as clear as I can: I’m staying in the race,” Biden said. “I’ll beat Donald Trump.”

Later on Friday, when asked whether he would watch the interview, Biden told reporters, “I think I will, yeah.”

Earlier this week, Biden did two separate interviews on radio shows, in which he said he had a “bad night” and “screwed up,” but that it “does not erase what I’ve done for three-and-a-half years.”

Concern about Biden’s abilities has spread to his financial backers. CNBC reported this week that Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy Disney, who co-founded The Walt Disney Company, said she would hold off on donations to Democrats unless Biden withdraws from the race.

The White House had said that Biden, whose voice sounded raspy during the debate, had a cold at the time. The president told people at a campaign fundraiser that the debate came after a lengthy overseas trip, though he had returned from that nearly two weeks earlier.

During his meeting with Democratic governors Wednesday night, Biden said he might limit evening events after 8 p.m. so he can get more sleep, two sources familiar with the exchange said.

The Biden campaign defended those remarks, saying presidents need a balanced schedule.

“President Bush went to bed at 9, and President Obama made dinner at 6:30. Normal presidents strike a balance, and so does Joe Biden,” campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz said in a statement. “Hardly the same rigor as Donald Trump who spends half of his day ranting on Truth Social about plans that would cause a recession and other half golfing.”

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