President Joe Biden said he got “sandbagged” on Thursday after he tripped and fell — but was not injured — while on the stage at the United States Air Force Academy graduation.
The president had been greeting the graduates in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in front of the stage with handshakes and salutes and turned to jog back to his seat when he fell. He was helped to his feet by two members of his Secret Service detail and an Air Force officer.
Onlookers, including members onstage with the official delegation, seemed concerned as they watched Biden, the oldest president in U.S. history at 80 years old, return to his seat to watch the end of the ceremony.
“I got sandbagged,” said the president to reporters while smiling when he returned to the White House Thursday evening before pretending to jog inside the residence. Two small black sandbags had been supporting the teleprompter used by other speakers and President Biden onstage during the graduation.
“He’s fine,” tweeted Ben LaBolt, White House communications director. “There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands.”
President Biden has been dogged by questions about his fitness to serve, his age, and his frequent missteps, which have become fodder for political rivals as he campaigns for a second term in 2024. He had stumbled before going up the stairs while boarding Air Force One and once when he got caught in his bike pedals while stopping to talk to reporters near his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Biden’s personal doctors said that after his most frequent physical exam in February, he “remains a healthy, vigorous 80-year-old male, who is fit to execute the duties of the Presidency successfully.” Dr. Kevin O’Connor also documented that the president’s stiffened gait resulted from spinal arthritis due to neuropathy and President Biden’s previously broken foot.
Former President Donald Trump expressed concern following Biden’s fall
Former President Donald Trump, 76, expressed concern for President Biden after hearing about his stumble and alluded to his own episode.
“He actually fell down? Well, I hope he wasn’t hurt,” said Trump after an audience member told him about what had happened to Biden. “The whole thing is crazy. You gotta be careful about that… ‘cause you don’t want that, even if you have to tiptoe down a ramp.”
The audience laughed as the former president recounted how he slowly recounted inching his way down what he said was a slipper ramp at the U.S. Military Academy graduation.
“If he fell, it’s too bad,” said the former president. “We gotta just get this thing back on track. That’s a bad place to fall when you’re making; I think it was the Air Force Academy, right? That’s not inspiring.”
In the meantime, Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used the opportunity to take a shot at President Biden while at a New Hampshire campaign event.
“We hope and wish Joe Biden a swift recovery from any injuries he may have sustained,” said Trump, “but we also wish the United States of America a swift recovery from the injuries it has sustained because of Joe Biden and his policies.”