Jesse Watters McCarthy 062625
Fox News

Ahead of the first presidential debate, Kevin McCarthy is flip-flopping on Biden’s mental acuity (again)

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is once again changing his position on the mental fitness of President Joe Biden.

In late 2023, McCarthy reportedly talked up Biden’s acuity to House Republican colleagues, calling the president “sharp and substantive.” McCarthy later took a different tack in a Wall Street Journal hit piece in which he, one of the only sources on the record, questioned Biden’s acuity. At the time, one of the Journal reporters even defended McCarthy’s flip-flopping, saying his prior remarks were “tactical.” Now, McCarthy is once again reversing course on Biden’s mental fitness, telling Fox News that Biden should not be underestimated ahead of the presidential debate.

  • McCarthy now urges Fox News not to underestimate Biden ahead of the debate, saying Biden would be “the best he’s ever going to be prepared.”

    On the eve of the first presidential debate, McCarthy took to Fox News to urge the pro-Trump network not to lower expectations for Biden, highlighting instances where he previously found the president “really engaging.”

    “I don't want to lower expectations because that's what everybody is doing, and all that does is help Biden,” McCarthy told host Jesse Watters. “And if you watch Biden throughout his career, the one thing that he has done well is in debates."

    Video file

    Citation From the June 26, 2024, edition of Fox News' Jesse Watters Primetime

    McCarthy also told Watters he was “concerned” about how “serious” Biden was treating his rigorous debate prep and recounted an anecdote in which he said the president was “fully engaged” after attending the 2023 G7 summit.

    “So let’s not lower expectations. He’s going to be prepared, the best he’s ever going to be prepared,” McCarthy emphasized.

  • McCarthy has repeatedly flip-flopped on Joe Biden’s mental fitness

    Since 2023, McCarthy has repeatedly changed his assessment of Biden’s mental fitness to politically benefit Republicans. As Politico reported after McCarthy’s ouster, the former speaker “mocked Biden’s age and mental acuity in public, while privately telling allies that he found the president sharp and substantive in their conversations.” The New York Times also reported that McCarthy talked up Biden’s mental acuity while he was speaker of the House. 

    McCarthy stuck with the negative in a June 4 article from The Wall Street Journal, which overwhelmingly cited anonymous Republicans calling into question Biden’s mental sharpness and omitted positive on-the-record statements from Democrats. 

    In the article, McCarthy said Biden would “ramble” during debt ceiling negotiations and “always had cards. He couldn’t negotiate another way.”

  • Wall Street Journal reporter said McCarthy’s inconsistencies on Biden may have been “tactical”

    When pressed by CNN about how to “make heads or tails” of McCarthy’s contradictory statements about Biden’s sharpness, congressional reporter Siobhan Hughes suggested that McCarthy’s public disparagement and private praise of Biden was “tactical.”

    “Our reporting also suggested that McCarthy was doing that tactically because he had to get along with President Biden at a time when the country was at, really, risk of a debt default,” Hughes asserted. “You can decide McCarthy is not credible or that he is, but that’s what our reporting showed.”

    The original Journal story was also featured on many Sinclair local broadcasts.