BY KURT EICHENWALD
Donald Trump tests positive for every medical ailment. All of them. Supposedly, that’s what his doctor says—or at least, that’s what the Trump campaign portrays him as saying.
On Monday, Trump opined that Hillary Clinton did not have the mental or physical stamina to be president. This was playing off of a conspiracy theory that has been pushed in the conservative media and by Trump supporters for weeks. As I wrote earlier this week, Fox News’s Sean Hannity and others even attempted to claim Clinton suffered from seizures, a vile misrepresentation that harms people who have epilepsy, as I do.
Still, the Trump acolytes have not dropped their lying campaign about Clinton’s health, and their argument that people with epilepsy are unfit for political office. They are demanding she produce all of her medical records. Since these lies are harming people with seizures, let’s talk about the health of both candidates and the relevant information released by their campaigns.
On July 28, 2015, the Clinton campaign released a typical medical letter from an internist, whom she has seen since 2001—Lisa Bardack, director of internal medicine, Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical. The letter is a typical medical history, and begins with the usual summary of a full physical, calling her a “healthy 67-year-old female.” It lists medical issues and the findings of testing. The tests, it says, were negative, meaning they showed no problems. To use the medical terminology, it is an unremarkable document.
On December 4, 2015, the Trump campaign released…something.
It purports to be a medical letter, but it is one of the most ridiculous documents ever to emerge in any political campaign. First, the letterhead is in the same font as the letter, which appears to have been created using Microsoft Word. The signature from the doctor is several inches past the signature line—the result you might get if the document had been signed as a blank and filled in later. The letterhead includes a Gmail address—something doctors tell me is extremely unusual, since doctors do not want patients contacting them directly by email as a substitute for scheduling an appointment.
There is also a website listed, but if you follow the URL (haroldbornsteinmd.com), sometimes it takes you to cdn.freefarcy.com, a blank page that asks if you want to upload an update to a Flash program onto your computer (the domain name, freefarcy.com, is still for sale. No, I can’t explain that.) If you decline, it does so anyway and, based on the response of the security system on my computer, the “program” on the doctor’s supposed website is a virus. (Other times it takes you to a generic medical website. No, I can’t explain that either.)
Then, there is the doctor who allegedly signed this document. His name is Harold N. Bornstein, and he is a gastroenterologist. This kind of physician is a specialist who treats the digestive tract. This is not an internist, who is trained specifically in providing full histories and physicals of patients. The letter signed by Dr. Bornstein, who did not return an email from Newsweek seeking comment, says that he has treated Trump since 1980. However, it mentions no history of the gastrointestinal problem that led the Republican candidate for president to seek out his help. In fact, the letter says Trump has had no significant medical problems. So why has he been seeing a gastroenterologist for over 35 years?
Unlike the Clinton letter, it does not contain a full medical history for Trump. The letter also has problems with sentence structure and major typographical errors, such as the opening line, “To Whom My Concern.” Most amusing, it says that his medical examination of Trump has “only positive results.” In medical terms, if the test is positive, it confirms the existence of disease. Is this doctor saying Trump has every medical ailment that could be found in examination? Does he not know the meaning of the word? Or, as I suspect, was the letter written by someone in the Trump campaign?
Anyone reading the letter can make a good guess about who that person might be. It says results were “extraordinarily excellent.” (Not a medical term.) It says, “His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” (Again, not a medical term.) Then, in the most hilarious, Trump-esque line of all, it says, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency.” In other words, this letter purports to show that a doctor has assessed the health of 43 people he has never examined, including the four who are still alive.
Now, if conservative conspiracy theorists want to play a “the candidate could have health problems” game, let’s do that. The letter from the Trump campaign mentions nothing about family history, as any normal letter assessing someone’s medical condition would. (Clinton’s does.) Family history is critical in understanding possible diseases that may emerge, particularly those with a genetic link. Trump’s father, Fred Trump, died from complications of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. That condition, which is the most common form of Alzheimer’s, emerges in people in their mid-60s or later. Trump is 70.
There is a genetic component to the disease. Risk increases when a person has a particular type of apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene on the 19th chromosome. The type of APOE gene a person has is testable. Has Dr. Bornstein, thegastroenterologist, tested for it? If not, why not? Is that why Trump has avoided seeing an internist, since they would conduct such a test? Such a test might reveal that Trump is unfit for office since dementia, unlike epilepsy, could damage a president’s ability to think coherently.
Moreover, people have been suggesting that they may have seen symptoms of Alzheimer’s in Trump’s behavior. Yes, I am using Trump argument style of “people say,” but I’m going to help you identify the people. Type “Trump and Alzheimer’s” into Google and lots of articles and online comments pop up pointing out behaviors of Trump’s that are consistent with Alzheimer’s: meandering speech, poor self-control, not properly responding to questions that are asked, erratic behavior.
See? I can generate conspiracy theories too. Please understand, I’m not saying Trump has Alzheimer’s. I’m just showing how easy it is to take a few facts and line them up to play the “I’m only asking questions” game. So if conservatives want to keep pushing their “Clinton’s health” conspiracy theory, even though they have a full assessment of her medical status from her doctor, then I’m going to keep demanding that Trump release a letter from a real internist that has real medical tests and results for Alzheimer’s. I’m not going to let kids with epilepsy be told they can’t be president of the United States or anything else they want simply so a bunch of liars can score political points. The case that there may be medical problems with Trump, given the nonsense of his medical letter and his poor family history, is much stronger than that against Clinton. It’s time for Trump and the conservative media to drop this line of attack, one that harms innocent people. Or get ready to answer questions that “people are asking” about what horrible things Trump is hiding about his health.