The story has almost everything — secrecy, power, rumors, drama. But what it lacks is truth, according to Dr. Sean Conley, President Donald Trump’s physician, who consigned to the realm of partisan fantasy claims that the president had suffered a stroke.
In November, Trump made a low-key visit to Walter Reed Medical Center. Specifics were not disclosed.
Enter Joe Lockhart, a former press secretary for President Bill Clinton.
“Did @realDonaldTrump have a stroke which he is hiding from the American public?” he tweeted Monday.
Did @realDonaldTrump have a stroke which he is hiding from the American public?
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) August 31, 2020
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Health has emerged as an issue in the presidential election, given widely expressed concern over whether the verbal wobbles of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden might indicate health concerns.
Adding grist to the rumor mill was a snippet from one of the latest books claiming to know all and tell all about the Trump White House.
New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt’s book alleges that behind the scenes, the November hospital visit triggered ripples that reached the very top of the federal government, according to CNN.
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“[I]n the hours leading up to Trump’s trip to the hospital, word went out in the West Wing for the vice president to be on standby to take over the powers of the presidency temporarily if Trump had to undergo a procedure that would have required him to be anesthetized,” Schmidt wrote.
He named no source for the information.
All of this set off Trump’s ever-keen fake news detector.
“It never ends! Now they are trying to say that your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes. Never happened to THIS candidate – FAKE NEWS. Perhaps they are referring to another candidate from another Party!” he tweeted on Tuesday.
It never ends! Now they are trying to say that your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes. Never happened to THIS candidate – FAKE NEWS. Perhaps they are referring to another candidate from another Party!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2020
Conley then offered a little more substance, saying in a statement that Trump had asked him to “address the recent public comments regarding his health,” CNBC reported.
“I can confirm that President Trump has not experienced nor been evaluated for a cerebrovascular accident (stroke), transient ischemic attack (mini stroke), or any acute cardiovascular emergencies, as have been incorrectly reported in the media,” Conley said.
“The President remains healthy and I have no concerns about his ability to maintain the rigorous schedule ahead of him,” he added.
“As stated in my last report, I expect him to remain fit to execute the duties of the Presidency.”
Conley had written a memo saying the president “did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurologic evaluations” at the time.
Memorandum from the President’s Physician pic.twitter.com/yzkjqCBBHc
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) November 19, 2019
The Trump campaign pushed back hard against CNN and Lockhart, who serves as an analyst for the network.
The campaign said in a statement that Lockhart deserves to be dropped by for “knowingly pushing a conspiracy theory about President Trump’s health.”
“If another CNN employee said similar things about Barack Obama they’d be fired immediately, so the same standard should be applied here,” the statement went on. “That is, of course, unless CNN is complicit in the smear campaign in order to level the playing field against Joe Biden, somebody who truly has lost a step.”
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