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Sanders and Bloomberg spar over health issues and medical records

Dems ramp up attacks ahead of Nevada debate

Washington — Michael Bloomberg and Senator Bernie Sanders have increased their attacks on each other in recent days, and one issue unrelated to policy differences has become a key point of contention: their health, and by extension their physical fitness for the presidency.

At a CNN town hall on Tuesday, Sanders, who had a heart attack in October, said he would not release any additional medical records beyond letters from three doctors released in December. 

"We released two rather detailed letters from cardiologists and we released a letter that came from the head of the U.S. Congress medical group, the physicians there. So I think we have released a detailed report, and I'm comfortable with what we have done," Sanders said. "If you think I'm not in good health come on out with me on the campaign trail and I'll let you introduce me to the three or four rallies a day that we do."

Sanders, who at 78 would be the oldest president ever elected, had a stent implanted after his heart attack. In their letters in December, the doctors wrote that he was "in good health" and "more than fit enough to pursue vigorous activities."

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" earlier this month, Sanders defended his decision not to release more information. "You can start releasing medical records and it never ends," he said.

Shortly after his heart attack, Sanders promised "full disclosure," telling CNN that "people do have a right to know about the health of a senator, somebody who's running for president of the United States."

Speaking to CNN Wednesday morning, Sanders' press secretary Briahna Joy Gray said attacks against Sanders over his health were "smears," and claimed that Bloomberg had survived heart attacks of his own.

"It's really telling given that none of the same concern is being demonstrated for Michael Bloomberg, who's the same age as Bernie Sanders, who has suffered heart attacks in the past," she said.

Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said the former mayor had never suffered a heart attack, calling the assertion by the Sanders camp an "absolute lie" and "completely false."

"The truth is: After a positive stress test in his doctor's office at Johns Hopkins University in 2000, Mike had two coronary stents placed. 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," Sheekey said about Bloomberg, who is also 78. The New York Times reported in 2007 that Bloomberg had the two stents implanted in 2000 because of a blockage in his heart.

"Here's what we know about Sen. Sanders: In October 2019, he had a medical incident in Las Vegas. He didn't tell the public for days and the full details have never been released. Now his campaign staff is spreading lies about Mike Bloomberg," Sheekey continued. A physician's letter released in December said Bloomberg was in "outstanding" health.

In a tweet later Wednesday morning, Gray said she was mistaken when she said Bloomberg had suffered heart attacks.

"I [misspoke] when I said Bloomberg had a heart attack," Gray wrote. "Rather, he underwent the same stent procedure as Bernie. Bernie released 3 detailed medical reports in December - just like the other candidates." 

The spat between Bloomberg and Sanders' campaigns highlights larger concerns about the Democratic primary field, which includes several candidates over 70, including Joe Biden, who is 77. The field also includes Pete Buttigieg, who at 38 is the youngest candidate in the race. President Trump is 73 years old.

Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.

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