Donald Trump raised eyebrows in late 2015 for releasing an eccentric medical report that he said was written by his longtime doctor, Harold N. Bornstein. Now, more than two years later, CNN is reporting that Bornstein wasn't actually the letter's author. On Wednesday, the doctor told CNN that Trump dictated his doctor's health letter himself.
Many people doubted that Bornstein wrote the letter when it was first published because its hyperbolic language — it called Trump's blood pressure "astonishingly excellent" and said that he "will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency" — lacked professionalism and medical nuance.
Dr. Jen Gunter, who has long been concerned about the letter, tells Bustle that it's fairly easy to get a presentable medical report even if you aren't in excellent health. "It's kind of like if you're asking somebody for a reference, and they don't really like you," she says. "They write two lines: 'Jane Smith worked for me from 2005 to 2010.' You can get a three- or four-line letter that doesn't include the bad stuff but looks like it was written by a doctor."
In contrast, she compares Trump's letter to "a kindergartener writing a note in crayon saying his mom wrote it."
In September of 2016, Bornstein insisted that "yeah," he had authored the letter, though he did try to explain its curious tone in an NBC interview by saying that he had "picked up" Trump's "kind of language and then just interpreted it to my own."
Bornstein's story changed this week. Speaking with CNN on Tuesday, he claimed that Trump wrote the report. "He dictated that whole letter," Bornstein said. "I didn't write that letter." Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment.
Even now, in mid-2018, this is an important revelation. As Gunter describes it, that Bornstein wrote the letter heightens the absurdity of the fact that the report didn't significantly harm Trump's campaign. She calls the letter "not even a good lie."
"That's the thing that's so disappointing," she tells Bustle. "It's not even an A effort, and it still stood and it was OK."
"At the time everybody was paying so much attention to Hillary Clinton's health, and she released a letter that looked like it was written by a real doctor," Dr. Gunter says. Referring to a perceived disparity in the standards to which Clinton and Trump were held, she adds: "It just doesn't seem to matter."
Trump originally released his letter after a Politico article noted that he had called on other candidates to publish medical reports but declined to do so himself. Questions about how Trump's health might affect his job performance were being raised at the time, as they were throughout the presidential campaign. Trump is known to avoid exercise and eat an unhealthy diet. He was 70 years old at his inauguration and the oldest person to ever assume the presidency.
If Trump did write the letter, his lack of true transparency also matters because he expressed doubts that Clinton was healthy enough to take office many times before and during the campaign. Clinton's critics often brought up a 2012 incident in which she was hospitalized for a concussion; she tried to rebuke them by releasing a letter from her own doctor that declared her to be in "excellent physical condition."
However, Trump might not end up in any real trouble — except in the public eye. The Atlantic reported that presidential candidates aren't legally mandated to release information about their medical health or history. Trump wasn't breaking the law, then, if he really dictated his own report.
We don't know many details about Trump's health, as CNN notes. The fact that Trump reportedly wrote his own medical letter doesn't really give us new information. It just indicates that the public may know even less about his health than it previously thought — and potentially reveals yet another lie for which he paid only a limited electoral price during the presidential race.