WASHINGTON — President Biden’s White House celebration of the Louisiana State University women’s basketball team went sideways Friday afternoon when freshman forward Sa’Myah Smith collapsed during his remarks.
The 80-year-old president was left standing awkwardly at his East Room lectern for about six minutes as Smith was treated and removed from the room in a wheelchair.
“This is not the first time it has happened,” Biden said after the event resumed. White House guests have fainted in the past and required a check-up at a doctor’s office built into the executive mansion.
Smith, from DeSoto, Texas, played in all 36 games for the Tigers, averaging 4.6 points per game as the team won its first ever women’s basketball championship last month.
Biden hosted the team following uncertainty about whether the players would show up after first lady Jill Biden accidentally snubbed them by saying that the runners-up University of Iowa should also be invited.
Tigers star forward Angel Reese — whom President Biden accidentally called “Angela” on Friday before correcting himself — got a hug from Jill Biden at the celebration, after saying last month that the team might give the White House a miss.
“I don’t accept [Jill Biden’s] apology because of, ‘you said what you said’… and like, you can’t go back on certain things that you say,” Reese said on a podcast at the time. “[Iowa] can have that spotlight. We’ll go to the Obamas. We’ll see Michelle. We’ll see Barack.”
Reese also claimed that Jill Biden had been barred from visiting the LSU players in the locker room before the championship game.
“Apparently she was supposed to come to our locker room before the game but we said ‘no,’” Reese said. “She was supposed to come to our locker room and go to Iowa’s locker room… But we said we didn’t want to. We didn’t want her coming into the locker room.”
The president attempted to mend fences Friday, hailing Reese for making the cost of attending women’s games exceed the price of tickets for the LSU men’s team.
As he spoke, Biden yet again snubbed his granddaughter Navy Roberts, 4, whom his son Hunter fathered out of wedlock, by telling the players he had “four granddaughters.”
Biden hosted the event during tense negotiations over the debt ceiling with House Republicans, which the Treasury Department says could lead to a federal debt default as early as next week.
Biden is scheduled to leave Washington on Friday evening for Memorial Day weekend trips to Camp David and Delaware — despite House Democrats ripping him anonymously for doing so.
A top White House negotiator, budget director Shalanda Young, attended the LSU event, as did Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), who is one of the leading GOP negotiators.
“Shalanda Young back there, direct of management and budget, putting together a deal — hopefully,” Biden said. “[Young] is now helping me with the critical budget talks we’re in the middle of now. But she said, ‘I’m leaving the talks to be here.’”