White House physician Ronny Jackson was slammed with an onslaught of questions regarding President Trump’s health in a bizarre press briefing on Tuesday that raised eyebrows as the press fished for maladies.
Jackson said Trump was in "excellent health" after conducting the president’s physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday, but the positive results weren’t enough for the reporters in attendance.
Jackson answered questions for more than 50 minutes, running the gamut from the odd to the conspiratorial. White House correspondents asked about everything from whether Trump wears dentures to how to gauge his mental health.
President Trump is berated on a regular basis for his alleged eating and sleeping habits, and many reporters seemed decidedly disappointed or confused by the conclusion that he'd been given a clean bill of health.
The Washington Free Beacon'a managing editor, David Rutz, sarcastically impersonated a White House correspondent on Twitter, joking, "But the president will eventually die, correct?"
Jackson mentioned that he was told by Trump directly to answer as many questions as possible, and the reporters on hand took full advantage. One reporter even asked if the president was addicted to drugs. That elicited a smirk from Jackson, who said Trump isn’t addicted to anything.
NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson seemed particularly perplexed by Trump’s positive results, asking about his mental fitness for office with her first question. The White House physician explained that he had no intention of conducting a cognitive assessment exam until Trump requested it.
That revelation opened the door for a series of followup questions. Despite a detailed explanation of why the cognitive exam was conducted and why Trump was judged mentally fit to be president, the NBC reporter asked if Trump is the healthiest president of all time – something Trump’s personal doctor once claimed.
“I’m not going to make any comparisons with presidents over the last 200 years,” Jackson responded.
A reporter then asked why Trump “appeared to slur his words” at a recent press conference, and the answer was simply that he'd had a dry mouth – but a reporter asked if dentures were the true culprit.
The White House physician answered several questions about Trump’s cholesterol and cardiac health before he was asked to elaborate on the cognitive assessment in “layman’s terms” and and discuss such conditions as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The doctor reiterated that Trump had passed an extensive cognitive exam that tests for “all those things,” and repeated the conclusion that the president doesn’t suffer from mental issues. When Jackson explained that Trump appears sharp and often speaks his mind, a reporter rudely interrupted with the rhetorical question, “He speaks his mind?”
Jackson elaborated on the weight loss goals for the president when CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta chimed in with a pair of questions about the president’s cardiovascular health. Once the White House doctor elaborated on the president’s heart health, however, it was back to a discussion of mental fitness.
“On what basis would you … advise the Cabinet that the president is unable to discharge his duties,” one reporter asked. “How does that bar get met?”
CNN’s Jim Acosta, who was thrown out of the Oval Office by Trump earlier in the day, asked if the cognitive assessment was the same thing as a psychiatric exam. It wasn't, according to the doctor, and Acosta’s network will scrutinize the difference, if history is any indication.
Another reporter asked about Trump’s “sniffles,” while numerous correspondents questioned the president’s eating habits.
ABC’s Jonathan Karl still didn’t believe the positive report nearly 30 minutes into the briefing.
“Can you explain to me how a guy that eats McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken and all those Diet Cokes, and who never exercises, is in as good of shape as you say he’s in?” Karl asked.
“It’s called genetics,” the doctor said.
The White House physician went on to take an assortment of other questions, such as a whether Trump’s “life expectancy” was known and how many scoops of ice cream he’s allowed to eat. Acosta was eventually called on for a second time and asked if the doctor was holding anything back for privacy reasons, while another wanted reassurance that Trump isn’t suffering from Alzheimer’s.
A reporter pointed out that Trump is close to the medical definition of obesity, and it became more apparent that some of the reporters were fishing for a dose of negativity at that point.
Questions went on for several minutes, ranging from whether Trump would be sedated for a future colonoscopy to why the cognitive test was requested. Jackson was even asked if Trump watches too much TV.
As the lengthy press conference was finally winding down, reporters asked about golf, Twitter, why Trump isn’t as healthy as Barack Obama, if Trump has benefited from not smoking cigarettes and if the president is monitored by a shrink.
The Hill media analyst Joe Concha made an effort to sum up the event when he tweeted a link headlined, “JUST IN: White House doctor: Trump requested and passed a mental health assessment.”
Concha captioned the tweet, “Would like to say that this analysis by actual medical professionals should put this narrative to rest, but that would require logic and impartiality.”