By Jack Phillips
A White House official tried to clarify remarks from President Joe Biden on Wednesday where he appeared to say that he currently has cancer while commenting on a forthcoming round of climate-related executive actions.
His comment was made during a speech about climate initiatives when he described emissions from oil refineries near his childhood Delaware home.
“I just lived up the road in an apartment complex when we moved to Delaware, and just up the road, a little school I went to, Holy Rosary grade school, and because it was a four lane highway that was accessible, my mother drove us rather than us be able to walk,” Biden said. “And guess what? The first frost, you know what was happening, you’d have to put on your windshield wipers to get literally the oil slick off the window.”
“That’s why I and so [expletive] many other people I grew up with have cancer and why, for the longest time, Delaware had the highest cancer rate in the nation,” Biden continued.
In response, a White House press official on Twitter suggested that Biden was referring to a previous doctor’s report saying he had non-melanoma skin cancers removed.
Confusion Over Past and Present Tense
White House spokesman Andrew Bates retweeted Glenn Kessler, the editor and chief writer of the Washington Post’s fact-checker, who said that Biden disclosed in a recent medical report (pdf) that he had non-melanoma skin cancers removed. Kessler, meanwhile, criticized the Republican National Committee for highlighting Biden’s exact words.
“This is what the President was referring to,” Bates said in response to Biden’s comment.
But in his comment Wednesday, Biden used a present verb tense to describe his experience with cancer, and he did not specifically make reference to the doctor’s report. Other social media users also questioned Kessler and Bates about why the president didn’t use the past verb tense.
Last year, Biden’s physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, issued a report saying he did not have any current cancers. He attributed non-melanoma cancer to time in the sun rather than exposure to chemicals due to oil production; it’s not clear why Biden attributed his cancer to oil refineries.
“It is well-established that President Biden did spend a good deal of time in the sun in his youth,” O’Connor wrote. “He has had several localized, non-melanoma skin cancers removed with Mohs surgery before he started his presidency. These lesions were completely excised, with clear margins,” the doctor continued.
O’Connor also added that “there are no areas suspicious for skin cancer at this time.”
Biden, 79, has stated that he intends to seek a second term in office amid questions about his health and mental capacity.
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