Biden made the gaffe as he delivered remarks at the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, where he publicly acknowledged elected officials like Walorski, R-Ind., who helped organize the gathering.
At one point Biden asked, “Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” as he looked out and scanned the audience. He did not correct his remarks.
Walorski, a five-term lawmaker, died in a car crash along with two of her staffers on Aug. 3. She was 58. She had been a co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, and she was one of four members of Congress who introduced the bipartisan bill that convened Wednesday's White House conference.
Hours after her death, Biden issued a statement saying he "appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America."
Asked why Biden made the remark about Walorski and whether he was confused, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at Wednesday's briefing that he mentioned Walorski because she was "top of mind," adding that Biden had plans to see Walorski's family "in just two days' time."
“He was thinking about her as he was — as he was naming out and calling out the congressional champions on this issue — on this really critical issue that’s going to help millions of Americans,” Jean-Pierre said.
In a series of tense exchanges, reporters repeatedly asked her to elaborate on why Biden made the comment, but Jean-Pierre would not say that Biden had misspoken or that he had forgotten that Walorski had died.
"The confusing part is why, if she and the family is top of mind, does the president think that she’s living and in the room?" a reporter asked.
"I don’t find that confusing," Jean-Pierre responded. "I mean, I think many people can speak to sometimes when you have someone top of mind, they are top of mind."