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Who Is Kevin O’Connor? The Doctor Who Can Ask Biden to Take Cognitive Test


Amid concerns about President Joe Biden’s mental acuity after his lackluster presidential debate performance last week, calls for the president’s doctor, Kevin O’Connor, to conduct cognitive testing have grown—including from some of his former colleagues.

Biden and former President Donald Trump participated in the first presidential debate of this year’s election cycle, which was hosted by CNN in Georgia, last Thursday. However, while Biden, 81, and Trump, 78, have faced concerns about their age and cognitive abilities, Biden failed to quell those concerns during the debate after he appeared to lose his train of thought at times and stumbled in his responses. A Biden aide, meanwhile, previously told Newsweek that the president was battling a cold.

O’Connor, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a retired U.S. Army colonel who serves as Biden’s doctor, has continued to face questions about the president’s health, more specifically cognitive testing, after releasing a six-page synopsis in February that said Biden was fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency. The report did not include a cognitive test.

In an article published on Saturday, The Washington Post spoke with three of O’Connor’s former colleagues in the White House medical unit who said Biden’s debate performance suggested that he should undergo cognitive screening.

Cognitive tests typically involve exercises that gauge short-term memory, attention and other key functions, and can be accompanied by a physical examination, such as gauging a person’s ability to perform rapid movements.

Ira Monka, president of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), also told the Post that he thinks an initial cognitive review is needed to see if more tests are necessary.

“Some of the stumbling and missing of the words, whatever was going on, would be a sign to say, maybe this person needs—not maybe—this person should get testing just to rule out the fact that there could be some underlying changes,” Monka who visited with O’Connor at the White House this year told the newspaper.

Newsweek has reached out to the White House and Biden’s campaign via email for comment.

However, according to the Post, a number of other people who have worked with O’Connor also said they “were confident that if he saw an indication a cognitive test was needed, he would recommend it.”

“He knows how to speak truth to people in power,” Reamer L. Bushardt, the former dean at the GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences who hired O’Connor in 2017 to work at that institution, told the newspaper. “I know he’s someone of integrity that wouldn’t be influenced or driven. And if you ask him a question, he’s going to tell you the truth.”

While O’Connor is part of a medical team of 50 people who provide round-the-clock care and monitoring for Biden, he would be one of the few that is “uniquely well-positioned” to notice a decline in Biden’s health, according to the Post. O’Connor not only works from a White House office, but meets regularly with the president for “brief check ins,” though not for tests, a White House official told the Post.

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden delivers remarks during the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27 in Atlanta. Amid concerns about Biden’s mental acuity after his lackluster presidential debate performance, calls for the president’s…


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

What Biden Has Said About Cognitive Testing

On Friday, Biden had a one-on-one interview with ABC News in which he not only addressed his debate performance and his health concerns, but doubled down that he is staying in the race after facing calls to step down.

“I’m not letting one 90-minute debate wipe out three-and-a-half years of work. I’m staying in the race, and I will beat Donald Trump,” Biden said.

During the interview, Biden was asked by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos if he would agree to undergo a cognitive test to quell concerns about whether he is mentally fit to serve another four years, something that Trump and his supporters have called for on multiple occasions.

Biden said, however, that “no one said I had to” take a test and that his physicians have said that he’s “good.” When pressed further by Stephanopoulos, the president answered, “I have a cognitive test every single day.”

“Every day, I have that test. Everything I do,” he continued. “You know, not only am I campaigning, I’m running the world. And that’s not—sounds like hyperbole, but we are the central nation in the world.”

Stephanopoulos then asked the president if his “answer right now” to calls for him to undergo a cognitive test was a “no.” Biden repeated, “No, I’ve already done that.”

What the Biden Administration Has Said About Releasing the President’s Medical Records

This is not the first time since the debate Biden or his administration have been asked to take and release more medical tests.

During Tuesday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about releasing more of Biden’s medical records.

While Jean-Pierre continued to note that Biden is still dealing with a cold following the debate, CNN reporter MJ Lee noted the president’s previous medical record summary released by O’Connor as she added that Americans today “are not seeing” that.

“You’ve said a couple of times now that the White House has provided thorough medical records for the President…I’m not sure that was a full account necessarily and Dr. O’Connor in the memo described the president as ‘a healthy, active, robust 81-year-old male who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency.’ I think that is clearly not what the majority of Americans are seeing,” Lee said.

Jean-Pierre responded that the administration and Biden acknowledge his age and understand the concerns of the American people, but added that the administration has been transparent and comprehensive with what they have released concerning Biden’s medical records.

“What we have released has been very comprehensive, it has been, it has been transparent and if you compare it, it has. And we’ll continue to do so, put that information out there. This is also a president who has had a historic administration, he has in delivering legislation, key policies. That is because with age comes wisdom and comes experience and I think that matters as well,” the press secretary said.