White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was forced to clarify her remarks after suggesting President Joe Biden would not serve all four years of a second term.
At the White House press briefing on Tuesday, reporters peppered Jean-Pierre with numerous questions about Biden's re-election campaign. One of those questions sought an answer to whether Biden plans to serve the entirety of a second term.
"I'm just not going to get ahead of the president. That's something for him to decide," Jean-Pierre responded. "I'm just not going to get ahead of it."
The ambiguity of Jean-Pierre's response led to speculation that Biden is considering not fulfilling a second term if he wins re-election.
But after the briefing, Jean-Pierre clarified that Biden will serve an entire second term if re-elected. Jean-Pierre explained that she did not provide a more clear answer at the briefing to avoid violating the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities.
"As you know, we take following the law seriously. So I wanted to be sure that I didn't go into 2024 more than is appropriate under the law. But I can confirm that if re-elected, @POTUS would serve all 8 years," she said on Twitter.
The initial response played into concerns about Biden's age and cognitive abilities. Already the oldest president in U.S. history, Biden would be 82 years old at his second inauguration and 86 years old at the end of the term.
Critics who are skeptical of Biden's fitness for the presidency have floated the theory that Democrats want Biden to run again to ensure that Democrats remain in control of the White House even if Biden resigns because of his health or passes away in office.
One Democratic strategist even recently suggested that it is imperative for Democrats to reconsider whether Vice President Kamala Harris should be Biden's 2024 running mate precisely because the combination of Biden's age and Harris' unpopularity may persuade moderate voters against supporting a Biden-Harris ticket.
Replacing her with a more popular candidate would thus alleviate concerns about the "succession" problem if Biden for some reason cannot fulfill a full second term.
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