President Joe Biden tripped on a sandbag and fell as he completed handing out diplomas at the US Air Force Academy commencement in Colorado on Thursday.
Biden appeared fine afterward, walking without assistance to his seat in the stands. He was seen smiling and jogging toward his vehicle at the ceremony’s conclusion.
The White House said the president was fine after the fall and he later joked about it, yelling “I got sandbagged!” to reporters after stepping off Marine One Thursday evening.
The stumble began as Biden was jogging away from center stage, where he earlier delivered a commencement address to the academy’s graduates. He spent more than 90 minutes handing out diplomas and congratulating hundreds of cadets.
As he was moving toward his seat, he tripped, falling to the ground. The president landed on his right hip before lifting himself up on his right hand.
A group of men, including an official with the Air Force Academy and two Secret Service agents, grasped onto Biden’s arms to help him back to his feet.
As he got back up, Biden pointed back toward the ground where he tripped, indicating something had gotten in his path. Video of the moment showed sandbags placed in front of the podium near where Biden had been standing. Earlier, the sandbags had been used to weigh down two teleprompters.
The president returned to his seat in the stands without assistance, and appeared in good spirits as the ceremony concluded.
“He’s fine. There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands,” communications director Ben LaBolt wrote on Twitter.
The president didn’t respond to questions about the episode as he departed Colorado about an hour after he tripped.
Biden is 80 years old, the nation’s oldest president, and is running for a second term. He’s had previous stumbles in public, including falling to the ground during a bike ride last year in Delaware. He’s also been seen slipping on the stairs as he boards Air Force One.
Despite those incidents, Biden’s doctor has said is physically fit to serve in office. In recent physicals, Biden’s doctor has examined the president’s stiff gait, determining it was a result of “wear and tear” changes on Biden’s spine.
The most recent physical determined the condition was unchanged, albeit with “possibly tighter hamstrings and calves.”
Biden’s aides say his schedule remains busy, and point to lengthy days on foreign trips as evidence of his continued vigor.
In his speech to graduates, Biden did make light of his age, which his political rivals have seized upon as evidence of an inability to serve another term.
“When I was graduating from high school 300 years ago, I applied to the Naval Academy,” he said to laughter.
Biden told US Air Force Academy graduates they were entering a rapidly changing world as he stressed the critical role of US support for its allies and partners and emphasized ongoing US assistance for Ukraine.
Biden said that the cadets will have “a lot to deal with” as they enter service amid a changing world with “proliferating” global challenges from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to strategic competition with China, as well as climate change and Artificial Intelligence.
And he stressed how America’s global partnerships are a “sign of strength” and praised the “incredible” people of Ukraine.
“The American people’s support for Ukraine will not waiver. We always stand up for democracies, always,” Biden said to applause.
This story has been updated with additional details.