Questions about Sanders' health linger after heart attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders says he doesn't plan to divulge additional information about his health, months after suffering a heart attack on the campaign trail and offering a subsequent pledge to release “comprehensive” medical records.

“I think we have released a detailed medical report, and I’m comfortable on what we have done," the 78-year-old Vermont senator said during a CNN town hall on Tuesday.

Questions about Sanders' health have lingered ever since he checked into a Las Vegas hospital with chest discomfort on Oct. 1 and had two stents inserted.

His campaign didn't acknowledge that he had suffered a heart attack until his release several days later. And after pledging to divulge a “comprehensive” accounting of his well-being, the campaign waited until New Year's Eve to put out letters from three doctors attesting to his health — a move traditionally deployed to avoid scrutiny.

Now, as Sanders heads into the Nevada caucuses on Saturday with growing momentum following strong performances in earlier contests, he's facing additional pressure from his rivals to divulge more.

That was brought into sharp focus Wednesday when campaign spokeswoman Briahna Joy Gray sought to deflect questions about Sanders' health during an appearance on CNN.

First, she suggested that the line of questioning was akin to a “smear campaign." Then, she inaccurately stated that Sanders' rival, 78-year-old Mike Bloomberg, also suffered a heart attack — a claim she walked back after a swift response from the billionaire former New York mayor's presidential campaign.

“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,” Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said. “Now his campaign staff is spreading lies about Mike Bloomberg.”

Bloomberg had two stents inserted after his doctors performed a heart stress test in 2000, but he did not have a heart attack.

After returning to the campaign trail in late October, Sanders pledged to release detailed information about his health before the year's end.

"I want to make it comprehensive," Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press at the time.

Whether he's lived up to that is open to interpretation. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Unlike rules governing personal finances, there is no law obligating presidential candidates to release medical information. And how much past contenders have revealed varies widely.

In 2008, Republican Sen. John McCain, then 71, released more than 1,000 pages of medical records to show he was cancer-free and fit to serve as president. Yet in 2016, President Donald Trump was dismissive of the practice, releasing a doctor's letter that proclaimed the then-70-year-old to be “in excellent physical health” despite taking cholesterol-lowering medication and being overweight.

Since then, other candidates have relied mostly on letters from their doctors. Among the Democrats, Bloomberg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70, have released one-page doctors' letters summarizing past and present health, along with four pages of key lab test results. Biden’s doctor’s letter covered three pages giving the 77-year-old's history and most recent checkups.

Sanders, the oldest candidate in the race, released a two-page review from his primary care doctor, and two cardiologist notes, each essentially a long paragraph.

Sanders’ health is arguably of most concern because of his heart attack last fall, and together those doctors' notes did reveal some important information: He’d undergone an exercise stress test after recovering, and it showed that his heart, which had sustained “modest heart muscle damage,” was functioning well when challenged.

None of that information sheds light on one concern in particular for older candidates: the chances of their memory and cognitive ability declining during their time in office.

The youngest candidate in the race, Pete Buttigieg, has yet to divulge medical information. But that didn't stop the 38-year-old from urging others to offer up far more details than they have and follow the practice of former President Barack Obama.

“I think we should be transparent, especially living in the Trump era. We've got to do better,” he said Wednesday on MSNBC. “I would look to the Obama standard of releasing not just a letter from a doctor, but actual results from a physical. That's what we're planning to do, and I think every candidate should hold themselves to that same standard.”

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Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a Primary Night event at the SNHU Field House in Manchester, New Hampshire on February 11, 2020. - Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire's crucial Democratic primary, beating moderate rivals Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar in the race to challenge President Donald Trump for the White House, US networks projected. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters at a primary night election rally at Nashua Community College, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Nashua, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 11, 2020: At her election night party, Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks to her supporters on New Hampshire primary night in Concord, New Hampshire on Tuesday February 11, 2020. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 11, 2020: At her election night party, Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks to her supporters on New Hampshire primary night in Manchester, New Hampshire on Tuesday February 11, 2020. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, greets supporters at a campaign event in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 11: Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang take a photo with supporters who are holding campaign signs in front of a polling station on February 11, 2020 in Keene, New Hampshire. New Hampshire holds its first in the nation primary today. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Voting precinct workers take a group photograph together before opening their doors for the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, right, meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A woman takes a Democratic ballot to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A voter steps from a booth after casting a ballot in the New Hampshire primary, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, takes the stage at campaign stop at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, depart after meeting people outside a polling place where voters cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, depart after meeting people outside a polling place where voters cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., greets supporters outside a New Hampshire primary polling location, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)
Residents arrive to vote in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
An election worker holds a roll of "I Voted" stickers during the New Hampshire primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Brad Parscale, campaign manager for President Donald Trump, left, wears a red had that reads "Keep N.H. Great" as he arrives to speak on SiriusXM Satellite Radio at the Red Arrow Diner, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Brad Parscale, campaign manager for President Donald Trump, center, wears a red had that reads "Keep N.H. Great" as he arrives to speak on SiriusXM Satellite Radio at the Red Arrow Diner, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Samantha Murch, center, accompanied by her two boys Alexander, 8, and Jacob, 11, left, steps out of the voting booth for the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Samantha Murch accompanied by her two boys Alexander, 8, center, and Jacob, 11, left, votes in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg gather outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A sign that reads "Vote! Pick Up Ballot Here" is displayed at a voting precinct for the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A man arrives to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Residents stand in voting booths to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A voter steps out of the booth after casting her ballot in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Actor Kevin Costner introduces Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, left, waves with his husband, Chasten at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, takes the stage at campaign stop at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Harvard Professor Cornel West speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Harvard Professor Cornel West speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes, performs after Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign stop at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, takes photos with Sara Nidua, 17, center, and Emma Bloom, 18, right, high school students visiting from New York, during a campaign event at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., greets supporters at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
A woman takes a Democratic ballot to vote in the New Hampshire Primary, Manchester, N.H., graphic element on gray
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Moderator Gloria Pilotte wears a "Vote" pin during the New Hampshire Primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
An election worker holds up an "I Voted" sticker during the New Hampshire primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Residents arrive to vote in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., arrives at a campaign stop at Rochester Opera House, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden flexes his arm along with Jaime Karnilaw of Concord, N.H., as they pose for a photograph at a campaign stop at Cilford Community Curch, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Gilford, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Pat Provencher wears a jacket in the colors of the American Flag covered in buttons in support of Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, at a campaign event for Buttigieg, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Plymouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Kevin Costner arrives for a Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Milford, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A sign is posted in the snow ahead of a Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Milford, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden pauses while speaking to supporters at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020 during a campaign event in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden greet supporters during a campaign event at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaking to supporters at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, during a campaign event in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A man holds a flag that reads "Veterans for Bernie 2020" outside a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during a campaign event at Exeter Town Hall, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., laughs as she speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to members of the media on a media bus outside at a campaign stop at Rochester Opera House, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to members of the media on a media bus outside at a campaign stop at Rochester Opera House, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
People wait for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to speak at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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