McConnell had minor fall two weeks ago, uses wheelchair periodically to get around: Sources

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(WASHINGTON) — New details about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s health are emerging after an unusual episode on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in which he froze up during a press conference and had to briefly return to his office.

While the 81-year-old Kentucky lawmaker has repeatedly said since then that he’s “fine,” he did suffer a fall two weeks ago in Washington, D.C., and uses a wheelchair periodically to get around, sources told ABC News.

McConnell fell on the jet bridge at Reagan National Airport on July 14, according to the sources.

The flight was canceled for reasons unrelated to his fall. McConnell returned to the Capitol afterward. Sources said he was fine and sustained no major injuries.

His office declined to comment on the incident and declined on Wednesday to answer other questions about his health.

McConnell previously fell in March, where he suffered a concussion and fractured rib. Since then, the Republican leader has periodically been using a wheelchair to get around, sources said.

NBC News was the first to report McConnell’s fall at the airport and his wheelchair use.

When asked to comment about the use of a wheelchair, McConnell’s office told ABC News that it is “simply a prudent and precautionary measure in a crowded area.”

McConnell hasn’t been seen by the press using a wheelchair on Capitol Hill, where his office is just steps away from the Senate chamber and the location where he holds his weekly press conferences.

He survived polio as a child and has long acknowledged difficulty walking and climbing stairs.

McConnell sparked concern Wednesday when he froze at his weekly press conference, going silent mid-sentence and staring off for about 20 seconds before stepping away. Colleagues around him could be heard asking if he was OK.

He was escorted back to his office and returned to the podium minutes later, where he answered some questions from reporters. He told the press he was “fine” after the incident. An aide said the senator was feeling lightheaded.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he spoke with McConnell after the episode as part of a regularly scheduled meeting.

“There was no concerns about his health in that meeting,” McCarthy said. “That wasn’t that much long after, no — it was a normal meeting that we’ve always had.”

McCarthy said McConnell “was good.”

When leaving the Capitol later Wednesday, McConnell told reporters that President Joe Biden had called him to check in. He said he told the president he “got sandbagged,” a reference to Biden’s fall in June during the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony.

“Got to watch those sandbags,” McConnell said as reporters asked if he knew what happened or if he’d seen a doctor.

“I’m fine,” he said.

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