Hours before they face off for the first time in Wednesday's Nevada presidential debate, the campaigns of 78-year-old Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg traded shots about whether the other was healthy enough to be president.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) reignited the health debate in a CNN town hall Tuesday by reneging on a promise to release his full medical records. Sanders promised in September, prior to his heart attack, to release his full medical records. He called it "the right thing to do" and said, "the American people have a right to know whether the person they're going to be voting for president is healthy."
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The Sanders campaign defended the decision not to release his full medical records Wednesday morning, calling it a smear campaign reminiscent of conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama being born in Kenya. The campaign also turned the attention to Bloomberg, with Sanders press secretary Briahna Joy Gray saying that Bloomberg "has suffered heart attacks in the past" and questioning why he isn't facing the same scrutiny.
The Washington Free Beacon found no evidence that Bloomberg has suffered a heart attack, let alone more than one. A doctor's note released by his campaign in December indicated he had surgery for a blocked artery in 2000 and developed an irregular heartbeat last year. His campaign flatly denies that he has had a heart attack.
The accusation from the Sanders campaign comes as Bloomberg has cemented himself in the top three in national polls and earned himself a spot on the debate stage for the first time. Bloomberg's campaign claimed on Tuesday it was a two-candidate race between him and Sanders, who earned the most votes in the first two primary states and is widely considered the primary's frontrunner. Bloomberg entered the race too late to participate in the early primaries, but has put himself into contention after spending a whopping $233 million in TV and digital ads.
Bloomberg senior adviser Tim O'Brien called the Sanders campaign's claim about heart attacks a "Trumpy lie."
"This is such a Trumpy lie from the Sanders camp, which rolls like Trump in many ways," O'Brien said. "Mike Bloomberg has never had a heart attack. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has had a heart attack. Those are the facts."
Gray later acknowledged in a tweet of her own that she "misspoke" when claiming Bloomberg suffered a heart attack.
"I misspoke when I said Bloomberg had a heart attack," Gray wrote. "Rather, he underwent the same stent procedure as Bernie."
Instead of full medical records, Sanders released in December three brief letters from doctors attesting to his "good health" and "mental and physical stamina." Of the other septuagenarian candidates, 77-year-old Joe Biden also only released a doctor's note and 70-year-old Elizabeth Warren released a full medical report.
If elected, either Sanders or Bloomberg would be the oldest president ever elected and the only president to serve into his eighties. Previous candidates who faced questions about their advanced age and health scares provided extensive medical records, including 2008 Republican candidate John McCain, who was 71 years old at the time, and 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who was 69 when she ran.