Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) abruptly froze mid-sentence during a Wednesday press conference, falling silent and still soon after he began his remarks.
After a few moments, the other members of Republican leadership seemed to notice that something was wrong, and gathered more tightly around him. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) put a hand on his shoulder.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) gently asked “Hey Mitch — anything else you want to say, or should we go back to your office?” McConnell seemed to lean in to better hear him, and Barrasso said “anything else you want to say to the press?”
McConnell’s press secretary Doug Andres came up to help, and McConnell briefly stood to the side behind the lectern. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) went up to the microphone to start talking, and cameras captured McConnell, escorted by Barrasso, leaving the group.
McConnell returned to the lectern when the rest of leadership had finished speaking. He immediately took a question, and CNN reporter Manu Raju asked him if what happened at the beginning of the press conference was related to his concussion earlier this year, for which he was hospitalized.
“I’m fine,” McConnell responded.
“Fine, you’re fully able to do your job…” Raju pressed.
“Yeah,” McConnell responded, before turning to take a different question. He took several questions, and answered them normally. None of them were about his minutes-earlier inability to speak.
A reporter asked him at the end of the press conference if he had anyone in mind to replace him when he’s no longer conference leader. McConnell and the other leadership laughed and walked away.
McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for an explanation of what happened. A McConnell aide told CNN that “He felt light headed and stepped away for a moment. He came back to handle Q and A, which as everyone observed was sharp.”
The minority leader was hospitalized in March of this year after falling and becoming concussed at a private dinner.