Why age is proving not to be 'just a number' in the upcoming US election

Trump's birthday celebrations once again highlighted age as a central theme of the upcoming US election, as ITV News US Correspondent Dan Rivers reports


On Saturday night, US President Joe Biden was at a star-studded fundraising event in Los Angeles, attended by George Clooney and Julia Roberts among others.

Despite the record 30 million dollars he raised for the campaign, the focus of much of the right-wing media the next day was on a moment at the end of the evening, as Biden left stage.

For a few seconds, he paused and looked into the crowd. This was seized on as evidence that the president had once again had a "senior moment", freezing in a mental fog, before the reassuring hand of Barack Obama steered him off stage.

The Murdoch-owned New York Post claimed Biden appeared to “freeze up on stage and had to be led off by Barack Obama at the conclusion of a star-studded campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles Saturday night”.

The White House angrily contested that characterisation.

In a statement, spokesman Andrew Bates said: “By pretending the President, taking in an applauding crowd for a few seconds, is somehow wrong, all they’re really admitting - once again - is they can’t take on the leadership that’s fueling the strongest economic growth in the world and bringing violent crime to a 50-year low.”

The subject of Biden’s mental acuity and age was raised again at Monday's White House briefing, but spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre again testily pushed back, claiming Republicans were trying to distract voters from Biden’s record and achievements.

Her comments came as the Biden campaign released a new attack ad, taking aim at former President Donald Trump’s criminal convictions.

It seeks to reframe the narrative ahead of next week’s first televised debate, from frailty to morality.

President Trump is only three years younger than the 81-year-old Biden and has also faced his fair share of criticism about his mental capacity.

His speeches often meander from one subject to another without any coherent theme. He is also often forgetful.

On Saturday night - around the same time Biden was being accused of “freezing up” - Trump was in Detroit, challenging his rival to “take a cognitive test”.

Yet in the very next sentence, he misremembered the name of his own White House doctor, twice calling him Ronny Johnson instead of Ronny Jackson.

It was reminiscent of the Biden gaff, when he called an unscheduled press conference in the White House to push back against claims by Special Counsel Robert Hur that he was “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”, only to refer to the President of Egypt, Fatah al Sisi, as the leader of Mexico.

Both men are well beyond the age at which most professionals retire.

America is having to chose between the two oldest Presidential candidates in history in November.

Next week’s debate will be the first head-to-head test of their mental dexterity.

The world will be watching not just what they say, but what they forget. The hesitations and memory lapses will be just as telling as the pre-scripted zingers.


Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know