One would think that having a leading candidate spontaneously bleed out of an eye socket on live television would grab the media’s attention. One would think incorrectly, as it turns out, even when that presidential candidate is the 76-year-old frontrunner with a history of aneurysms. During last night’s CNN marathon forum on climate change, Joe Biden’s left eye filled with blood while he talked about climate change. Yet outside of a few conservative publications, hardly a media outlet blinked its own eyes, including the news channel that hosted it:
The Washington Free Beacon reported on it, as did the Examiner:
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s left eye appeared to have a blood vessel burst while he was participating in CNN’s town hall on climate change.
A broken blood vessel in the eye, also known as a subconjuctival hemorrhage, can be caused by several things, including high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, blood thinners, or even excessive straining.
Biden, 76, has long been plagued by health issues. In 1988, he suffered an aneurysm that burst and required him to undergo emergency surgery. The then-senator was so close to death that a Catholic priest began preparing to administer the sacrament of last rites.
[A quick note: The sacrament of last rites, also known as extreme unction and anointing of the sick, is not necessarily confined to being “close to death.” It’s not at all unusual for Catholics to request that sacrament before any surgery or when dealing with any serious medical issue. Nevertheless, a burst aneurysm can be a life-and-death situation regardless of whether one seeks anointing.]
Months later, surgeons clipped a second aneurysm before it burst. Biden then took a seven-month leave from the Senate following the surgery. He has described the operation as “they literally had to take the top of my head off.”
A few other media outlets covered Biden’s eye bleed, but mostly on-line publications, and mainly those on the right. Heavy.com was one of the rare exceptions, and its report delved directly into the potential health issues this raises:
According to WebMD, “Most subconjunctival hemorrhages are spontaneous without an obvious cause. Often, a person may discover a subconjunctival hemorrhage on awakening and looking in the mirror.” In fact, there are some mundane causes for such bleedings. WebMD reports that these can include sneezing, coughing, straining, eye rubbing, trauma from injury, high blood pressure or a bleeding disorder. The site recommends people see a doctor when the bloody eye persists, when it’s accompanied by other symptoms like bleeding gums, and when it’s accompanied by vision changes, among other things.
A journal article called Subconjunctival hemorrhage: risk factors and potential indicatorson such hemorrhages explains, “Subconjunctival hemorrhage is a benign disorder that is a common cause of acute ocular redness. The major risk factors include trauma and contact lens usage in younger patients, whereas among the elderly, systemic vascular diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and arteriosclerosis are more common.” The article was published in the Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology.
It’s not clear what caused Joe Biden’s eye to bleed.
That’s not the only possible cause though. The American Academy of Ophthalmology lists a number of other ailments that bloody eyes can be associated with, ranging from glaucoma to corneal ulcer. You can see the list here.
That is a fair assessment from Heavy, which prompts the question as to why other more mainstream media outlets didn’t bother to report on it. It might mean nothing, but for a 76-year-old man with Biden’s medical history, there are risks that might be important when selecting the nominee for the presidency. But at least a responsible report on the situation informs viewers and readers of what this may or may not mean for their voting choices next year.
Imagine what would have happened if Donald Trump had been bleeding from his eyeball during a debate in 2016. Or bleeding from his whatever. (Okay, that was too easy.) There would have been hours of televised scrutiny into the worst possible diagnoses from such an obvious indication. Heck, media outlets like CNN are still pushing the idea that they can diagnose Trump’s mental state from his speech patterns. And yet CNN had nothing to say at all about Biden’s spontaneous eyeball bleed when it happened in their own studio. So much for “reporting,” eh?
Politico’s coverage of Biden’s appearance at the forum mentions the incident in passing. However, it’s mainly a clever device by which Jeff Greenfield notes what a poor showing Biden made on CNN’s climate-change marathon:
… Biden’s appearance at the town hall was less than impressive. He repeatedly interrupted himself to jump from one thought to another. When he was asked whether he would ban fossil fuel exports—an issue on which other candidates had disparate but relatively clear views—Biden instantly pivoted to a long account of his efforts on behalf of high-speed rail.
Even the shallow matter of what we now call “optics” went badly for Biden. He chose to sit through his appearance—Harris, Sanders, and Warren all stood—and by the end of it, a burst blood vessel in his left eye was noticeable.
Yet for all of Biden’s well-reported troubles, he has remained the 2020 front-runner from the moment he announced his candidacy. By now, he and his campaign have to be aware of the political adage: “Sooner or later, every front-runner takes a punch.” For Biden, those punches are flying, and he does not seem prepared to deal with them. Eventually, unless he starts to defend himself better, one of them is going to floor him.
Not as long as the media keeps covering for him by not covering him.