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Trump challenges Biden to cognitive test, but confuses name of doctor who tested him

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump on Saturday night suggested President Joe Biden “should have to take a cognitive test," only to confuse who administered the test to him in the next sentence.

The former president and presumptive Republican nominee referred to Texas Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson, who was the White House physician for part of his presidency, as "Ronny Johnson.” The moment came as Trump was questioning Biden's mental acuity, something he often does on the campaign trail and social media.

“He doesn’t even know what the word ‘inflation’ means. I think he should take a cognitive test like I did," the former president said of Biden during a speech at a convention of Turning Point Action in Detroit.

Seconds later, he continued, “Doc Ronny Johnson. Does everyone know Ronny Johnson, congressman from Texas? He was the White House doctor, and he said I was the healthiest president, he feels, in history, so I liked him very much indeed immediately."

Jackson was elected to Congress in 2021 and is one of Trump's most vociferous defenders on Capitol Hill.

Trump, who turned 78 on Friday, has made questioning whether the 81-year-old Biden is up for a second term a centerpiece of his campaign. But online critics quickly seized on his Saturday night gaffe, with the Biden campaign — which has long fought off criticism about the Democratic president's verbal missteps — posting a clip of the moment minutes later.

Trump took the cognitive test in 2018 at his own request, Jackson told reporters at the time. The exam is designed to detect early signs of memory loss and other mild cognitive impairment.

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment that Trump took includes remembering a list of spoken words; listening to a list of random numbers and repeating them backward; naming as many words that begin with, say, the letter F as possible within a minute; accurately drawing a cube; and describing concrete ways that two objects — like a train and a bicycle — are alike.

Trump later said that he had to remember and accurately recite a list of words in order: “Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.”

During the same speech in Detroit, Trump also referenced a video clip widely circulated online in Republican circles where Biden is seen during the recently concluded Group of Seven summit in Italy watching skydivers land with flags from different nations.

A cropped version of the video shows Biden stepping away from the leaders, turning his back and walking in the other direction. He flashes a thumbs-up but it's not clear who he is gesturing to. A more complete angle of the same scene, however, shows that the president had turned to face a skydiver who has landed.

Trump nonetheless seized on the video clip, falsely describing Biden turning around "to look at trees," drawing laughter and hoots from the crowd.

The Biden campaign issued a statement dismissing the clip as misleadingly cropped and accusing those disseminating it as “tampering with the video to make up lies.”

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