Just hours before the two come head-to-head for the first time in Las Vegas for the ninth Democratic primary debate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sparred over whose heart health was in better condition.
Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack last fall and initially mislead the public about the senator’s hospitalization. Bloomberg, also 78, had two coronary stents inserted in 2000.
Questions over the candidates’ health surfaced on Tuesday when Sanders said during a CNN town hall that he would not release more medical records four months after his heart attack.
Sanders’ national press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, characterized questions related to Sanders’ health as part of a “smear campaign” against the senator.
“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,” Gray said. “Questioning where they’re from, aspects of their lineage, et cetera, et cetera.”
Gray then continued to accuse Bloomberg of having suffered heart attacks, though Bloomberg’s 2000 procedure does not mean the New York billionaire has ever had one. Last year, Bloomberg also released a letter last year noting that the businessman has undergone heart surgery but makes no mention of a heart attack.
“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,” Gray said.
The Bloomberg campaign immediately shot back, condemning Gray’s remarks as untrue.
“This is such a Trumpy lie from the Sanders camp, which rolls like Trump in many ways,” wrote Bloomberg senior advisor Tim O’Brien on Twitter.
This is such a Trumpy lie from the Sanders camp, which rolls like Trump in many ways.
Mike Bloomberg has *never* had a heart attack. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has had a heart attack.
Those are the facts.
It’s a dangerous time when Sanders goes all in with Trumpism. https://t.co/Yk6RlI8WaN
— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) February 19, 2020
Bloomberg’s campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, also blasted Gray for “spreading lies,” and called on more transparency over Sanders’ health.
“The truth is: After a positive stress test in his doctor’s office at John Hopkins University in 2000, Mike had two coronary stents placed,” Sheekey said in a statement. “He quickly told the FAA, consistent with the rules for any pilot, and this information has been public for years. The Bloomberg 2020 campaign released more information about his outstanding health soon after he entered the race.”
Sanders on the other hand, Sheekey said, “had a medical incident in Las Vegas. He didn’t tell the public for days and the full details have never been released.”
Gray began to walk back her comments from CNN saying she “misspoke” when she charged Bloomberg with having a heart attack.
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.
— Briahna Joy Gray (@briebriejoy) February 19, 2020
The quarrel between the two campaigns has now brought many of the leading candidates’ age back into the spotlight raising questions over whether they can manage the stress that not only goes into a presidential general election but also to lead the nation for four years before running again.
The top four candidates leading in Real Clear Politics’ latest aggregate of national surveys are each 70-years-old or older.
Sanders in first place is 78, while former Vice President Joe Biden in second is 77, followed by Bloomberg in third who is also 78 and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren who is 70.
Biden has enjoyed no shortage of concerns over his own age and ability to confront the challenges ahead in his old age and has only sewn further doubts by proceeding through the campaign with a series of gaffes and slip-ups raising the anxieties of those worried about the former vice president’s sharpness to take on President Donald Trump this fall.