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Joe Biden ‘Where’s mom?’ explained: What did the president mean yesterday?

Bruno Cooke July 27, 2021
joe biden wheres mom
ADA in the Rose Garden of the White House on July 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. Activists and politicians gathered at the White House to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the ADA being signed into law. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

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Some recent comments from president Joe Biden – namely, “Where’s mom? Mom – is she here?” – from a press conference with tetraplegic artist Tyree Brown have been rocketing around conservative quarters of the internet, apparently as evidence of “brain freeze” and “complete confusion”. But what did he mean by it? Who’s mom was Biden referring to?

Joe Biden’s ‘Where’s mom?’ remarks explained

President Biden made his remarks during an event to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act yesterday, in the White House Rose Garden.

In attendance was disability advocate and artist Tyree Brown. As a result of a car accident in 2015, Brown is tetraplegic: her paralysis includes full or partial loss of function in all of her limbs. 

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Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

She was in attendance at the event with Joe Biden in order to share her story as a disabled artist. Brown also thanked Biden, Harris and the administration as a whole for being advocates for the disability community.

What happened next?

After taking to the stand, Joe Biden called Tyree Brown “an inspiration”, and thanked her for sharing her story. He greeted several other guests present, and then asked, “by the way, where’s mom? Mom – is she here?”

Brown replied, “She’s at home watching” – as in, watching on television. Tyree’s mother is Deree Cox. Besides being a supporter to her daughter – driving her to physical therapy, cooking meals, and so on – Cox has also been her subject.

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However, for whatever reason, Tyree’s mother was not able to attend the Rose Garden event yesterday. Biden seems to have presumed that she would be there.

What did Joe Biden mean when he asked ‘Where’s mom?’

Biden’s detractors have taken his remarks as evidence of confusion and even senility. In these cases, his not knowing whether or not Tyree Brown’s mother was in the audience has been used against him. 

Others have praised the president for being “considerate and compassionate” in wanting to greet the mother of his guest speaker. In this case, asking the question in the first place is taken as a positive.

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Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

What is clear is that, in a milieu in which videos of Joe Biden are doctored in order to smear him, anything he says that isn’t absolutely according to script is bound to result in a Twitter frenzy.

Is Joe Biden’s mom still alive?

Joe Biden’s own mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden (her family called her Jean), passed away in 2010. She was 92 years old. 

For Mother’s Day last year, Biden tweeted a message to his mother and “the extraordinary mothers everywhere”.

At the end of the event, Joe Biden gave Tyree Brown, along with several others, a pen. She thanked him; he thanked her; the event concluded at 11:40am EDT.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.