WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Monday that health is an issue in the election campaign after his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, revealed she had pneumonia, and he said he would soon release detailed information about his health.
Asked by Fox News about the health of the candidates, Trump said: “I think it’s an issue. In fact … this last week I took a physical and …. when the numbers come in I’ll be releasing very, very specific numbers.”
Trump, 70, has been suggesting for weeks that Clinton lacks the energy needed to be president. He has raised questions about her stamina, mirroring a strategy used during the Republican primary campaign when he derided rival Jeb Bush as a “low energy” candidate.
Clinton’s bout of pneumonia, which her campaign did not reveal for days until she nearly collapsed Sunday, has raised uncertainty about her health as campaigning for the Nov. 8 election gathers pace and renewed concerns about the former first lady’s perceived penchant for secrecy.
The Clinton campaign disclosed Sunday that the 68-year-old Democratic presidential nominee had in fact been diagnosed with pneumonia Friday after she complained of allergies and was seen coughing repeatedly in recent days.
Her campaign had said Clinton had become “overheated” to explain why, knees buckling and unsteady, she was rushed from a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York to her daughter Chelsea’s apartment.
The health problem was the latest blow for Clinton at a time when Trump has erased most of her lead in national opinion polls and is competitive again in many battleground states where the election is likely to be decided.
Clinton’s dismissal of half of Trump’s supporters as a basket of deplorables” of racist, homophobic people on Friday triggered a firestorm of criticism, and she later said she regretted the comment.
Trump said the remark was “the single biggest mistake of the political season,” which he compared to a much criticized comment by 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that 47 percent of the electorate were dependent on government.
“Remember this … You’re going to be president of all the people. You’re not president of 50 percent or 75 percent,” Trump told Fox News. His campaign released a television commercial Monday accusing Clinton of “demonizing” working people by making the comment.
Clinton’s campaign is likely to be pressed on why she did not make her pneumonia diagnosis public until late Sunday.
“I think it’s exceedingly important that Hillary Clinton be transparent about what’s going on,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “If she gets a report of pneumonia on Friday, they should try to tell the public in real time. The danger for a candidate is if they seem to be hiding their health history.”
Critics say Clinton has a tendency toward secrecy, an accusation that fueled a debate about her use of a private email server, rather than a government one, while she was President Barack Obama’s secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Clinton staff sick
After the disclosure about pneumonia, Clinton canceled a two-day trip to California which was scheduled to begin Monday morning. In recent weeks, staff at Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, have been hit by a bug, and several aides required medical treatment, a campaign aide said.
The health incident put pressure on both Clinton and Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, to reassure American voters about their health, given the rigors of the presidential campaign, in which the food often is unhealthy, sleep is elusive and the packed schedule and extensive travel is stressful.
“The short-term turbulence will be more about the handling of this than the substance, though I’m sure both candidates will be pressed for greater disclosure of health records,” David Axelrod, a former adviser to Obama, said.
Trump told CNBC Monday he would probably release information about his own health this week.
The Republican is expected to discuss his own health regimen in an interview to air Thursday with celebrity physician Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Trump, a New York businessman, has made no secret of his affinity for fast food, sometimes sharing photos of himself on his campaign jet or at Trump Tower enjoying fried chicken, hamburgers and a taco bowl.
But he has made less information available about his health than Clinton. Last December, he released a statement from his doctor, Harold Bornstein, that described him in excellent health with “extraordinary” strength and stamina.
The statement did not mention what medicine Trump might be taking or other details typically included in such disclosures. It was dramatically different from the hundreds of pages of medical records released by Republican nominee John McCain in 2008 to reassure Americans about his bouts of skin cancer.
“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” Bornstein wrote. The Manhattan physician said in August he wrote the letter in five minutes as a Trump limo waited to pick it up.
Clinton released a two-page letter outlining her medical condition in July 2015 that sought to reassure Americans about her health after she fell and suffered a concussion at home in 2012 near the end of her tenure at the State Department.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior associate at the UPMC Center for Health Security in Pittsburgh who is not treating Clinton, said recovery from pneumonia can vary from about a week to longer, depending on the severity.
“Some patients have very little difficulties with activities of daily living and are only mildly hampered by it while others may require hospitalization and have to reduce their activities,” he said, adding that pneumonia was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.