WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tripped and fell disembarking from a plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport this month, two sources familiar with the incident said.
McConnell, 81, was not seriously hurt, and he was seen later that day at the Capitol, where he interacted with at least one reporter.
The fall, which has not been previously reported, occurred July 14 after the flight out of Washington was canceled while everyone was on board. McConnell, R-Ky., who was a passenger, had a “face plant,” someone who was on the plane at the time but did not witness the fall told NBC News. That passenger also said they spoke to another passenger who helped tend to McConnell.
McConnell has also recently been using a wheelchair as a precaution when he navigates crowded airports, said a source familiar with his practices.
McConnell, a polio survivor who has long struggled to navigate stairs and other obstacles, has had a difficult recent history with falls. He sustained a concussion and a cracked rib in a fall in Washington this year, and he spent six weeks away from the Senate. He fractured a shoulder in a fall in Kentucky in 2019, requiring surgery.
McConnell’s nearly 20-second freeze during a news conference Wednesday renewed concerns about his overall health after the concussion.
“He’s definitely slower with his gait,” said a Republican senator who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. In closed-door GOP meetings, “he doesn’t address it,” the senator said, referring to health issues.
McConnell’s office declined to comment for this article Wednesday night.
McConnell, who told reporters he was “fine” after his freeze-up Wednesday, spoke with President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy after the incident.
“The president called to check on me. I told him I got sandbagged,” McConnell joked to reporters, an apparent reference to Biden’s fall last month.
McCarthy, R-Calif., said that he spoke to McConnell in a regularly scheduled meeting and that there were “no concerns about his health in the meeting.”
Asked whether he has personally witnessed anything behind the scenes to suggest McConnell cannot run the GOP conference, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a trusted McConnell lieutenant and adviser, replied: “He’s as sharp as he ever was.”
“I’ll support Sen. McConnell as long as he wants to continue to serve,” Cornyn added.