Joe Biden has privately apologised to the relatives of the late congresswoman Jackie Walorski after he appeared to forget about her recent death during a public event. The US President, 79, asked ‘Where’s Jackie?’, during an anti-hunger event last week.
Referring to Ms Walorski, he appeared to forget that the Indiana congresswoman had died in a fatal car crash in the summer.
The Republican representative was killed alongside two staffers in August.
Ms Walorski died aged 58, having served in the Indiana House of Representatives before representing Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District.
She was listed by the US President as one of the key people who made the food insecurity conference a reality.
Mr Biden told the media: “I want to thank all of you here for including bipartisan elected officials like Rep. (Jim) McGovern, Sen. (Mike) Braun, Sen. (Cory) Booker, Representative – Jackie, are you here?
“Where’s Jackie? I think she wasn’t going to be here – to help make this a reality.”
The White House’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, did not concede that the president misspoke in a press briefing that followed, saying Ms Walorski was “top of mind” for the US leader.
However, President Biden spoke privately with Ms Walorski’s family, including her mother and widower, according to the New York Post.
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Martha Walorski, 83, met with the president for approximately half an hour in the Oval Office two days after President Biden made the gaffe.
Ms Walorski’s brother, Keith, told the publication: “She [Martha] said, ‘Well, Mr. President, we can tell you where Jackie is. She’s in heaven with Jesus.’”
He added: “He [Biden] could only agree. He’s a very Catholic person. He’s very strong in his Catholicism. So all he could do is say, ‘Yes, you’re right. I know.’”
Mr Walorski then said: “He did apologize for the ‘Where’s Jackie?’ comment and our family assured him we have no hard feelings. We forgive him for his gaffe.”
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He added that President Biden brought the mistake up in conversation, and the family “basically accepted his apology” for misspeaking.
In August, the House Minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, tweeted a message from the late congresswoman’s office.
It read: “Dean Swihart, Jackie’s husband, was just informed by Elkhart County Sheriff’s office that Jackie was killed in a car accident this afternoon.
“She has returned home to be with her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
“Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers. We will have no further comment at this time.”
Ms Walorski’s office paid tribute to the “dedicated members” of Ms Walorski’s staff, Zach Potts and Emma Thomson.
A statement added: “They were the epitome of public servants who cared deeply about the work they performed.”