Donald Trump endured a day of scrutiny and mockery when in December he released an over-the-top doctor's letter proclaiming his laboratory test results to be "astonishingly excellent" and asserting that at 70 he "will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
Here at The Fix, Philip Bump diagnosed Bornstein with a case of "Trumpitis," writing that "Trump's hyperbole is itself a disease — and it's contagious."
But the media's attention quickly shifted from the letter to the next day's Republican presidential debate. The doctor's note was mostly forgotten.
CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta reported Tuesday that Bornstein exaggerated his qualifications when signing the letter as a fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology and a member of the gastroenterology department at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. In fact, Bornstein has not been an ACG fellow since 1995 and, though he does have admitting privileges at Lenox Hill, he is not on staff there.
Gupta's report included some of the same observations chronicled last week in a blog post by Jen Gunter, a San Francisco doctor, whose piece was picked up by The Washington Post's Fact Checker, among others. Gupta appeared on various CNN programs Tuesday, revisiting various holes in the letter that were covered last year — the lack of evidence to support claims about Trump's good health and the unprofessional writing style, most notably.
Also Tuesday, the New York Times ran a front-page report that noted the letter from Trump's physician "contained no details about his heart rate, respiratory rate, cholesterol level, past medications or family medical history."
"The doctor, Harold N. Bornstein of Manhattan, concluded that Mr. Trump, if victorious, 'will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency' — a claim that was widely mocked as unprovable and unscientific," the Times added.
Trump brought this renewed scrutiny on himself by harping on the idea that his 68-year-old opponent, Hillary Clinton, is not physically or mentally fit to be president. He and his surrogates have sought to make health a big issue lately, claiming the Democratic nominee lacks "stamina" and looks "sick." Trump ally Matt Drudge seems obsessed with Clinton's medical condition these days, and others in the conservative media have made wild diagnoses ranging from Parkinson's disease to radiation poisoning.
It was inevitable then that journalists would return to questions about Trump's own constitution.
Trump has a bad habit of reviving negative stories through his own antics. He seemingly put the ugly Megyn Kelly feud behind him in May and weathered criticism for mocking a reporter with a physical disability last fall, then needlessly re-litigated both controversies during a news conference in July. His initial attack on a Latino judge, in February, blew over quickly, but he made things harder on himself in June when he told the Wall Street Journal that the judge had an "absolute conflict" in presiding over a case involving Trump University because he is "of Mexican heritage."
Remember when Vladimir Putin called Trump "a really brilliant and talented person" last year? You might not have, except Trump said at a news conference last month that he hopes Russian hackers can find Clinton's deleted emails, triggering an avalanche of new stories about the mutual admiration between the billionaire and the dictator.
Trump has been slamming Clinton all week over potential conflicts of interest presented by her family's foundation. You can bet a wave of stories about possible conflicts involving the Trump organization are on the way. When it hits, Trump will have himself to blame.
Critical coverage is unavoidable for any candidate, but most are happy to have the media move on to other subjects. Trump, however, is proving once again that his ability to put past controversies back in the headlines is "astonishingly excellent."