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Sanders spokeswoman says she misspoke after distorting Bloomberg's health record

Bernie Sanders' national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray said the questioning of the 78-year-old Democratic presidential candidate's health and requests for further medical records "were reminiscent of a smear campaign."

Posted: Feb 19, 2020 12:30 PM
Updated: Feb 19, 2020 12:30 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders' national press secretary on Wednesday distorted Michael Bloomberg's past heart issues and called questions about the Vermont senator's health and requests for additional records a "smear" campaign.

Sanders spokeswoman Briahna Joy Gray later said she misspoke when she said Bloomberg had experienced heart attacks in the past.

Sanders' health has been an issue in his campaign since the 78-year-old suffered a heart attack last fall. He released several letters from physicians late last year and said at a CNN town hall Tuesday night that it's unlikely his campaign will release additional information about his health.

Gray told CNN's John Berman on "New Day" Wednesday that questions about the senator's fitness for office are unfair.

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"What you're seeing right now is really reminiscent of some of the kind of smear, kind of skepticism campaigns that have been run against a lot of different candidates in the past. Questioning where they're from, aspects of their lineage, et cetera, et cetera," Gray said. "It's really telling given that none of the same concern is being demonstrated for Michael Bloomberg, who is the same age as Bernie Sanders, who has suffered heart attacks in the past."

Bloomberg, who is also 78, underwent a coronary stent placement in 2000 for a blocked artery, but that does not mean he had a heart attack.

Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg's campaign manager, said Gray's reference to Bloomberg having suffered heart attacks is "an absolute lie."

"Facts matter. This isn't the way to defeat Donald Trump in November," he said in a statement.

Gray walked back her comment about Bloomberg on Twitter later Wednesday morning.

"I mispoke when I said Bloomberg had a heart attack. Rather, he underwent the same stent procedure as Bernie. Bernie released 3 detailed medical reports in December — just like the other candidates," Gray tweeted. Sanders had two stents placed in a blocked coronary artery following his heart attack.

Set to face off on debate stage

The back and forth between the two candidates' campaigns come as Bloomberg is set to make his debut on the Democratic debate stage later Wednesday. Sanders, as the current front-runner in national polls, has accused Bloomberg of buying his way to the nomination by spending millions of his own money on his campaign.

Both candidates -- either of whom would be the oldest president in US history if there were to be elected -- have attempted to assuage voters that they are fit for office.

Last fall, Sanders was rushed to an urgent care facility after experiencing chest pains and was off the campaign trail for about two weeks. Nearly three months later, he released three letters from physicians attesting to his good health.

During the CNN town hall, Sanders argued that his campaign has released "quite as much as any other candidate has" and that the letters, including one from the attending physician at the US Capitol, amounted to a "detailed report."

Asked if he would release more details, the Vermont senator said, "I don't think we will."

Previously, Sanders had pledged in September, before he suffered the heart attack, to release his medical records before the first votes are cast. After his heart attack, Sanders said voters deserve to have "full disclosure" about a candidate's health.

"The people do have a right to know about the health of a senator, somebody who's running for president of the United States — full disclosure," Sanders said in an interview in October with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

In December, Bloomberg's campaign released a letter from the candidate's doctor that said he is in "outstanding health" with no medical conditions that would prevent him from serving as president. Since the stent placement, Bloomberg has undergone annual cardiac stress testing and last year's test was "normal and demonstrated excellent exercise tolerance," the letter said.

The letter stated that the former mayor takes a blood thinner after developing atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. At least 2.7 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation, for which the common treatment is medication, according to the American Heart Association.

This story has been updated to include additional comment from Gray and background information.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 726600

Reported Deaths: 13379
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion992781737
Lake53359964
Allen40387675
St. Joseph35449550
Hamilton35440408
Elkhart28376439
Tippecanoe22336217
Vanderburgh22271396
Porter18637306
Johnson17876377
Hendricks17154314
Clark12919191
Madison12574339
Vigo12426245
Monroe11845169
LaPorte11773210
Delaware10615185
Howard9859215
Kosciusko9366117
Hancock8239140
Bartholomew8042155
Warrick7766155
Floyd7645177
Grant7019174
Wayne7018199
Boone6669101
Morgan6547139
Dubois6148117
Marshall6000111
Dearborn578577
Cass5780105
Henry5681102
Noble558283
Jackson500472
Shelby489496
Lawrence4492120
Gibson434391
Harrison434271
Clinton426853
DeKalb425284
Montgomery423388
Whitley394439
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Steuben382957
Miami380266
Knox371890
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Switzerland7848
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Ohio56211
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1080121

Reported Deaths: 19344
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1254981392
Cuyahoga1115202107
Hamilton798171200
Montgomery512711012
Summit46997933
Lucas41982782
Butler38273580
Stark32190907
Lorain24910480
Warren24249297
Mahoning21474586
Lake20586368
Clermont19727238
Delaware18496131
Licking16396210
Fairfield16144199
Trumbull15996466
Medina15233262
Greene15027244
Clark13960297
Wood13056188
Portage12806201
Allen11609231
Richland11308198
Miami10659215
Muskingum8795132
Wayne8777210
Columbiana8756229
Pickaway8547121
Marion8511135
Tuscarawas8467243
Erie7859154
Hancock6900126
Ross6835152
Ashtabula6777169
Geauga6665148
Scioto6398101
Belmont5856167
Union570047
Lawrence5542102
Jefferson5511151
Huron5422119
Darke5344122
Sandusky5330120
Seneca5268121
Athens518258
Washington5148109
Auglaize488484
Mercer480185
Shelby468593
Knox4479110
Madison435461
Putnam4268100
Ashland421289
Fulton420969
Defiance418997
Crawford3965106
Brown392957
Logan381176
Preble379098
Clinton370561
Ottawa366279
Highland353861
Williams338075
Champaign330458
Guernsey315453
Jackson312051
Perry294550
Morrow283839
Fayette281449
Hardin270364
Henry268166
Coshocton264258
Holmes2590101
Van Wert242863
Pike237433
Adams237052
Gallia235048
Wyandot230654
Hocking215162
Carroll191247
Paulding172440
Meigs144639
Noble133337
Monroe131942
Morgan108323
Harrison107537
Vinton82415
Unassigned02
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