WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell appeared to briefly freeze up and was unable to answer a question from a reporter at an event in Kentucky on Wednesday, weeks after he had a similar episode in Washington.
According to video from a local news station, the 81-year-old McConnell was asked whether he would run for reelection in 2026. The senator asked the reporter to repeat the question before trailing off and staring straight ahead for about 10 seconds.
A woman standing at the front of the room with McConnell asked him whether he heard the question and she repeated it. When McConnell did not answer, she announced to the room that “we’re going to need a minute.” McConnell eventually answered two additional questions — though not the one about a 2026 campaign — and was halting and appeared to have some difficulty speaking. The woman then ended the news conference and McConnell left the room, walking slowly.
McConnell’s reaction was similar to the time when he froze for about 20 seconds at a news conference in the Capitol in late July. He went back to his office with aides and then returned to answer more questions.
The latest incident in Covington, Kentucky on Wednesday adds to the questions in recent months about McConnell’s health and whether the Kentucky Republican, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has served as GOP leader since 2007, will remain in his leadership post.
His office said afterward that McConnell was feeling “momentarily lightheaded” and would see a physician before his next event. Similarly, after the July episode, aides said McConnell was lightheaded and McConnell told reporters several hours later that he was “fine.” Neither McConnell or his aides have given any further details about what happened.
In March, McConnell suffered a concussion and a broken rib after falling and hitting his head after a dinner event at a hotel. He did not return to the Senate for almost six weeks. He has been using a wheelchair in the airport while commuting back and forth to Kentucky. Since then, he has appeared to walk more slowly and his speech has sounded more halting.
McConnell had polio in his early childhood and he has long acknowledged some difficulty as an adult in climbing stairs. In addition to his fall in March, he also tripped and fell four years ago at his home in Kentucky, causing a shoulder fracture that required surgery.