(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden tumbled on stage Thursday after delivering remarks at the US Air Force Academy commencement, but the White House said he was not hurt.
Biden, 80, tripped and fell to the ground after handing a diploma to the last of roughly 900 cadets to cross the stage. After going down, Biden appeared to point to a nearby sandbag for anchoring on the riser, indicating that he tripped on it. White House communications director Ben LaBolt later said Biden had stumbled over the sandbag.
Secret Service and Air Force personnel immediately helped Biden to his feet and he returned to his seat. The president was seen walking unassisted to his motorcade after the ceremony in Colorado ended.
“I got sandbagged,” Biden quipped to reporters after he returned to Washington on Thursday evening. He smiled and raised his hands as he entered the White House.
Already the nation’s oldest president, Biden has faced questions about his health and fitness for office as he embarks on his run for a second term.
Biden in November 2020 suffered a hairline fracture to his right foot while playing with one of his dogs, and had to wear a walking boot during his recovery.
Biden was on stage Thursday for more than 90 minutes handing out diplomas and shaking hands with academy graduates following his commencement speech. The Air Force Academy is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at a site that sits 7,258 feet above sea level, according to the Air Force.
Biden was given water periodically throughout the ceremony, and reporters were advised to hydrate to stave off altitude sickness.
Service academy commencement ceremonies can be lengthy affairs that are physically demanding for presidents, who speak and then stand on stage to greet each graduate.
Earlier: Trump Says Slippery Ramp, Lack of Handrail Caused Shaky Walk
Then-President Donald Trump, who was then 74, faced scrutiny over his health after he shuffled haltingly down a ramp at the US Military Academy at West Point following his commencement speech there in 2020.
“The ramp that I descended after my West Point commencement speech was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery,” he said in a statement at the time. “The last thing I was going to do is ‘fall’ for the Fake News to have fun with. Final ten feet I ran down to level ground. Momentum!”
--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs.
(Updates to add Biden quote, in fourth paragraph.)
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