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23 Mar, 2020 15:25

#Where'sJoe? Biden pledges to hold Covid-19 'briefings' after disappearing for week amid speculation over whereabouts

#Where'sJoe? Biden pledges to hold Covid-19 'briefings' after disappearing for week amid speculation over whereabouts

Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden has promised to address the nation about the coronavirus epidemic "soon" as critics wonder where he's been for the last week – and whether he's even alive.

The former vice president reportedly told donors on Sunday that he would be making the first of many "presentations" regarding the coronavirus pandemic from his Delaware home on Monday, despite disappearing from view for a week. He addressed his backers remotely for a "virtual fundraiser," and no footage or audio from the event has surfaced publicly.

Biden has not appeared in public – virtually or otherwise – since Tuesday, when he streamed an address from his home to celebrate his primary victories in Illinois, Florida and Arizona. The presumptive Democratic nominee's prolonged absence from the spotlight at a time when party voters are crying out for leadership has raised eyebrows even among his supporters, while his detractors began to wonder whether the candidate was even still alive.

"Hope Joe Biden had a nice relaxing weekend while the entire global economy ground to a halt and millions of people abruptly lost their jobs," said one angry Twitter user.

Many speculated about whether his long-rumored health problems had put him on the sidelines for good. Tuesday's video, after all, had ended with Biden looking confused and being led off the stage by his wife.

His campaign has released several statements and tweets purporting to be from the candidate, excoriating President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus and the attendant economic crisis, and media outlets have cooperated by printing quotes as if they came directly from Biden's mouth. A Medium post published on Sunday night purporting to be written by Biden slammed the president and Senate Republicans for "putting corporate bailouts ahead of families," the kind of reassuring boilerplate one might expect from the Democratic nominee. But video of the candidate himself has been elusive and limited to recycled footage of the most recent Democratic debate with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

While Sanders remains in the primary race, he did not win any states in last Tuesday's primaries, falling short amid historically low turnouts as the coronavirus epidemic put a chill on voters. The democratic socialist's supporters slammed the Illinois, Florida and Arizona governments for "voter suppression" over polling places closing unexpectedly, short-staffed sites, and a shortage of cleaning supplies. Others turned their venom on Democratic National Committee head Tom Perez for insisting on holding in-person primaries despite the pandemic that has so far sickened 35,241 Americans and killed 473 as of Monday.

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During a fundraising call with donors in Georgia on Sunday, Biden reportedly revealed he had talked with former president Barack Obama about his vice presidential pick. The nominee would have to be "prepared to be president of the United States" on "day one," should Biden fall ill or become incapacitated, he said. 

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