Biden dismisses concerns about mental fitness, says he'd drop out if the 'Lord Almighty' told him

President Joe Biden, in an exclusive interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, acknowledged last week’s debate was a “bad episode” but pushed back strongly against broader questions about his age and mental fitness.

Stephanopoulos, over the course of 22 minutes, pressed Biden repeatedly not only on his debate performance against Donald Trump but also on reports that his lapses have become increasingly common these past few months — and on what he would be willing to do to reassure the American people.

“Are you the same man today that you were when you took office three-and-a-half years ago?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“In terms of successes, yes,” Biden responded. “I also was the guy who put together a peace plan for the Middle East that may be comin’ to fruition. I was also the guy that expanded NATO. I was also the guy that grew the economy. All the individual things that were done were ideas I had or I fulfilled. I moved on.”

MORE | ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos’ exclusive interview with Biden: Full transcript

President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on Friday, July 5, 2024 for his first TV interview since the presidential debate.

President Joe Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Friday, July 5, 2024 for his first TV interview since the presidential debate.

“Do you dispute that there have been more lapses, especially in the last several months?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Can I run the 100 in 10 flat? No. But I’m still in good shape,” Biden said.

Stephanopoulos followed up, asking, “Are you more frail?”

“No,” Biden said, flatly.

Biden’s sit-down with ABC News is his first television interview since the June 27 debate. ABC News reached out to Trump to offer him an equivalent interview opportunity, but his team declined.

The interview is part of a push from the White House and the campaign to recalibrate after Biden’s halting debate performance left some Democrats panicked about his ability to carry out a grueling reelection campaign and a second term.

MORE | Biden, defiant in crisis, holds fiery rally in Wisconsin ahead of pivotal ABC News interview

President Joe Biden salutes as he boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to a campaign trip in Madison, Wis., Friday, July 5, 2024.

President Joe Biden salutes as he boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to a campaign trip in Madison, Wis., Friday, July 5, 2024.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Looking ahead to a possible second term, Stephanopoulos said the question on the minds of many Americans is whether Biden would be able to serve effectively. If reelected, Biden would be 86 at the end of a second term.

“Do you have the mental and physical capacity to do it for another four years?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“I believe so. I wouldn’t be runnin’ if I didn’t think I did,” Biden said. “Look, I’m runnin’ again because I think I understand best what has to be done to take this nation to a completely new new level. We’re on our way. We’re on our way. And, look. The decision recently made by the Supreme Court on immunity, you know, the next President of the United States, it’s not just about whether he or she knows what they’re doin’.

“It’s– it’s– it’s not– not about a con– a conglomerate of people making decisions,” Biden continued. “It’s about the character of the president. The character of the president’s gonna determine whether or not this Constitution is employed the right way.”

Stephanopoulos then pressed him, asking if in on a personal level, Biden was being honest with himself about his mental and physical ability to lead for four more years.

“Yes, I am, because, George, the last thing I want to do is not be able to meet that,” Biden said. “I think, as some of senior economists and senior foreign policy specialists say, if I stop now, I go down in history as a pretty successful president. No one thought I could get done what we got done.”

Biden declined to agree to have an independent medical evaluation that included cognitive tests and share the results with the public.

Biden also repeatedly brushed off recent poll numbers that show him behind Trump both in the general election and in specific swing states, as well as concerns voiced by some Democrats that staying in the race is not in the interest of the party or the country.

“If you can be convinced that you cannot defeat Donald Trump, will you stand down?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“It depends on — on if the Lord Almighty comes down and tells me that, I might do that,” Biden said.

Next Biden-Trump presidential debate will be in September on ABC

Copyright © 2024 ABC News Internet Ventures.

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