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Biden mistakenly asks if deceased congresswoman is in audience

In his remarks Wednesday at a White House hunger conference, President Biden searched the audience for former congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.).

“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” Biden said, looking out into the crowd and expressing uncertainty over whether she planned to be there.

Walorski died in a car crash in early August.

She was one of four lawmakers who sponsored bipartisan legislation to hold the conference, the first of its kind in more than 50 years. Before inquiring about Walorski, Biden had referenced the other three: Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Rep. James P. McGovern (D-Mass.).

Asked later about Biden’s comments, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Walorski had been “top of mind” for Biden because he is planning to see her family Friday at a signing ceremony for a bill that renames a veterans clinic after her.

In August following Walorski’s death, Biden and first lady Jill Biden issued a statement extending their condolences, saying they “appreciated her partnership” on facilitating the conference on hunger.

Two members of Walorski’s staff, along with another motorist, also died in the accident in Indiana.

Fielding questions at a White House briefing, Jean-Pierre would not explicitly say that Biden had made a mistake or had perhaps forgotten about Walorski’s death.

“The president was naming the congressional champions on this issue and was acknowledging her incredible work,” Jean-Pierre said. “He had already planned to welcome the congresswoman’s family to the White House on Friday. … She was top of mind.”

Jean-Pierre was pressed at several other points about the episode, including by a reporter who said John Lennon was “top of mind” for him but that he is not “looking around” for the late Beatles member. Lennon was killed in 1980.

Jean-Pierre responded that when the reporter is president and signing a bill for Lennon, “then we can have this conversation.”

Later, Jean-Pierre said she wasn’t going to answer the question any differently just because it was asked multiple times.

“All of you may have views on how I’m answering it, but I’m answering the question to the way that he saw it,” she said, referring to Biden. “Again, she was at the top of mind. He is going to be seeing her family in two days to honor her, to honor the work that she has done.”

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