The health of the presidential candidates gained attention this week when Sen. Bernie Sanders said his campaign likely will not release his full medical records despite previously committing to do so.
During a CNN town hall Tuesday, Sanders also argued that his campaign has released “quite as much as any other candidate has” when it comes to medical records.
Facts First: This is mostly true but requires analysis. While none of the top 2020 Democratic candidates for president have released “full” health records, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has provided 5 pages of data along with a letter from her physician, slightly more than what Sanders’ campaign has released. However, as CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta pointed out, the three letters the Sanders campaign has released “do provide the relevant medical information about his overall health, and important details about his heart.”
But that is still short of releasing the full medical records that Sanders promised last year.
What Sanders said he’d do
Sanders committed to disclosing his full medical records in September. The next month he had a heart attack. In December, Sanders’ campaign released three letters from physicians attesting to his heart health, in an attempt to address concerns about his fitness to serve.
In an October interview with Gupta after his heart attack, Sanders indicated again that he would release his medical records, saying: “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.”
What others have done
There’s no law requiring presidential candidates to release medical records or any information about their health to the public.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who at 77 is a year younger than Sanders, released a summary of his medical history which included results of a physical and a letter from his doctor. President Donald Trump himself has stuck to providing letters from his doctor, despite allegations he dictated one such missive released during his first campaign.
In 2008, as his presidential campaign was heating up, Sen. John McCain invited members of the press to review over 1,000 pages of his medical records and interview his physicians. At the time, McCain would have been the oldest person to hold the office of the president if he had won, which put his health in the spotlight.
If elected, Sanders would become the oldest president, out of a field with multiple septuagenarians, including Trump. According to Sanders, the information he’s already provided, including the letters, amounts to a “detailed report.”
Controversy with Bloomberg
Recent comments by a Sanders spokesperson about the campaign’s decision sparked controversy but also reiterated the importance of candidates providing accurate medical information.
On Wednesday, Sanders spokeswoman Briahna Joy Gray called the scrutiny over the Vermont senator’s health reminiscent of a “smear” campaign and falsely claimed that former New York City mayor and rival candidate Michael Bloomberg had also suffered heart attacks.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that the current medical records Sanders has provided are not the full disclosure he initially promised.