Tale of Trump's doctor letter just got weirder

Donald Trump's recent lab tests were 'astonishingly excellent' read the letter. Photo / AP
Donald Trump's recent lab tests were 'astonishingly excellent' read the letter. Photo / AP

Donald Trump's doctor finally spoke out in an interview that aired Friday night (US time). But his comments aren't likely to end the questions about the strange letter he drafted last year declaring Trump would be the healthiest president in history.

NBC News tracked down Dr. Harold Bornstein, who said in the interview that he crafted Trump's doctor letter in only about five minutes - declaring his patient healthier than all 43 American presidents - while a limousine waited impatiently outside for him to finish.

"I thought about it all day and at the end, I get rushed, and I get anxious when I get rushed," Bornstein said. "So I try to get four or five lines down as fast as possible so that they would be happy.

"I've got five minutes to sit right at this desk and write that letter while the driver waited for me."

Needless to say, this isn't a fantastic way to write a sober-minded review of the health of a now-70-year-old man who could soon lead the free world. And Bornstein's letter raised roughly as many questions as it tried to answer, given the errors and typos it contained and the fact that it read, well, a lot like something Trump himself would write.

As Philip Bump wrote back in December when the letter was released:

Dr Harold Bornstein. Photo / Supplied
Dr Harold Bornstein. Photo / Supplied

Trump's recent lab tests were "astonishingly excellent," said Harold Bornstein, a gastroenterologist on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. His recent examination showed "only positive results." His strength and stamina are "extraordinary." His cardiovascular system is "excellent," and he has "no history" of drinking or smoking.

What's more, Bornstein writes, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

Clearly, Trump's hyperbole is itself a disease - and it's contagious.

Bornstein admitted in the NBC interview that he was at least somewhat influenced by the kinds of words Trump uses.

NBC NEWS: Is that the way that you write most of your medical letters?

BORNSTEIN: No, but for Mr. Trump, I wrote that letter that way.

NBC NEWS: Did he ask you to describe it that way? Or do you pick up his kind of language by spending time with him?

BORNSTEIN: I think I probably picked up his kind of language and then just interpreted it to my own.

Got it.


While the strangeness of the doctor's letter was largely laughed off and forgotten at the time - perhaps given it was back during a time when many were still convinced Trump wouldn't actually win the Republican nomination - it has resurfaced in recent days.

Trump himself has played a big role in its reemergence, by raising suspicions and feeding conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton's health.

A Newsweek reporter responded to the Trump campaign's innuendo about Clinton by raising fresh own questions about the letter, suggesting Trump's doctor's letter might not be totally legitimate. Kurt Eichenwald noted the doctor said Trump had received only "positive results" during a recent examination - when testing "positive" generally suggests a bad result.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta then raised his own questions about the letter.

Of all the problems with the letter - and there are more than a few - the biggest may be the hyperbole. Doctors are trained to be circumspect and not draw conclusions that aren't supported by facts. Bornstein's letter, quite simply, didn't sound as though it were written by a serious-minded doctor who had given it the kind of thought it warranted.

And in his interview with NBC, Bornstein seemed to confirm it wasn't.

"In the rush, I think some of those words didn't come out exactly the way they were meant," he said.

The question from here is what it means going forward.

The letter was already arguably incomplete. As the New York Times noted, it "contained no details about his heart rate, respiratory rate, cholesterol level, past medications or family medical history."

And now, given Bornstein's comments suggesting his own letter was written under some duress  - or at least, less than ideal circumstances - you can expect rising demands for a do-over, and perhaps more information about Trump's health.

That is, of course, assuming Trump decides he wants to provide it: As he's shown with his tax returns, he won't easily give in to public pressure to disclose things about himself.

But given Bornstein's comments Friday night, it's clear we don't have a particularly serious evaluation of what condition Trump's health is in. And it seems logical that a guy whose campaign is raising questions and suggestions about Clinton's health would want to erase any doubt about his own.

- Washington Post

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