Letter from Biden's doctor seeks to dispel questions about Parkinson's specialist visits

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The White House late Monday released a letter from President Biden’s physician seeking to clear up why a neurologist with an expertise in Parkinson’s disease had visited the White House several times.

The letter came after White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had several heated exchanges with reporters earlier in the day about whether the administration has been transparent about Biden’s health.

Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the physician to the president, wrote that Dr. Kevin Cannard was the specialist who performed Biden’s neurological exam during each of his three annual physicals, including the one that took place in February. He added that Biden “has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical.”

“The results of this year’s exam were detailed in my February 28th letter,” O’Connor said, citing the letter following the exam that said “an extremely detailed neurologic exam was again reassuring in that there were no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis, nor are there any signs of cervical myelopathy.”

O’Connor, in the letter, stressed that Cannard’s overall medical and military background, not his expertise in movement disorders, is why he saw Biden.

“Seeing patients at the White House is something that Dr. Cannard has been doing for a dozen years,” O’Connor said. “Dr. Cannard was chosen for this responsibility not because he is a movement disorder specialist, but because he is a highly trained and highly regarded neurologist here at Walter Reed and across the Military Health System, with a very wide expertise which makes him flexible to see a variety of patients and problems.”

The letter was released hours after Jean-Pierre was bombarded with questions about why visitor logs showed Cannard had been at the White House eight times over an eight-month span from last summer into this spring.

Jean-Pierre repeatedly refused to go into detail about the visits or whether Cannard was there to see the president, citing security and privacy concerns because more than 1,000 military members receive treatment from the White House medical unit.

Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday that Biden has not been and is not being treated for Parkinson’s, and he is not taking medication to treat the disease. She said the president had consulted with a neurologist three times during his presidency, once during each of his three physicals since taking office.

The letter from O’Connor reiterates what Jean-Pierre told reporters, which is that normally the White House doesn’t disclose names of specialists they work with. He said that they obtained permission from Cannard to do so for the release of the letter on Monday evening. 

O’Connor went into detail about Cannard’s background, saying his “qualities make him a valued and versatile consultant to assess and treat a wide variety of conditions.”

Questions about the president’s mental sharpness and whether he’s up to handling the job for another four years have become commonplace following his poor performance at a June 27 debate, when Biden spoke haltingly and often struggled to complete his train of thought.

Biden’s debate performance has sparked days of hand-wringing among Democrats over whether the president should step aside for another nominee as some lawmakers have questioned whether he can campaign vigorously enough to defeat former President Trump in November.

Biden has vowed he will not drop out of the race, dismissing calls for him to do so as the desires of party “elites” and not those of average voters.

Logs show Cannard met in January with O’Connor, Biden’s White House physician, and cardiologist Dr. John Atwood in the White House residence clinic. Biden underwent his annual physical exam at Walter Reed on Feb. 28.

The New York Times reported Cannard made more than two dozen visits to the White House during the Obama administration from 2012-2016. It is unknown whether he visited the Trump White House because then-President Trump stopped the disclosure of visitor logs. 

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