While delivering opening remarks at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health Wednesday morning, US President Joe Biden mistakenly called out for the late Rep. Jackie Walorski, who co-sponsored a bill to fund the conference before her death.
“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” he asked, looking out into the audience of approximately 500 people. “She was going to be here.”
Walorski, the 58-year-old Republican congresswoman from Indiana, died in her home state on Aug. 3 in a two-car crash near Nappanee, about 30 miles southeast of South Bend.
Walorski’s communications director, 28-year-old Emma Thomson, and St. Joseph County Republican Party Chair Zachery Potts, 27, also died in the head-on collision, as did the driver of the other vehicle.
The White House did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment about Wednesday’s apparent gaffe.
Shortly after Walorski’s death, the White House flew flags at half-staff in her memory, and the president and first lady Jill Biden issued a statement on her passing.
“I 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,” the August statement said, per NPR.
It continued: “We send our deepest condolences to her husband, Dean, to the families of her staff members, Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson, who lost their lives in public service, and to the people of Indiana’s Second District who lost a representative who was one of their own.”
The longtime congresswoman was an integral part of the legislation that led to the funding of the meeting, which also drew approximately 1,000 virtual attendees, according to NBC News.
Walorski, along with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill last October that made possible Wednesday’s second national White House conference on food, nutrition, hunger and health.
The first such conference occurred just over 50 years ago, and culminated in the creation and expansion of programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the National School Breakfast and Lunch Program.
Walorski had represented Indiana’s District 2 since 2013. She earned the Republican nomination for reelection in May and was slated to defend her congressional seat against Democratic challenger Paul Steury in November’s midterm elections.
Last month, the Indiana Republican Party selected Rudy Yakym as the GOP nominee to replace Walorski in the upcoming election.”Rudy will be a strong voice for northern Indiana and continue Jackie Walorski’s legacy of fighting for conservative values in Washington, D.C.,” Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer in a statement. (People)