In the White House, the phony of presidential health bulletins is not new

This is not the first time that communication around the president's state of health has been disturbingly obscure.

In recent weeks, America has questioned a lot about the true state of health of its president. A little sick, very sick? Since when? Had he received oxygen? His doctor, Dr Sean P. Conley, ended up admitting to withholding information because he did not want to interfere with the "optimistic attitude" of the president and his medical team.

The White House's communication around President Trump's health has been rather obscure and muddled, especially in the first few days when he was hospitalized and his chief of staff was releasing alarming information directly contradicting that transmitted by doctors. Trump now appears to be out of danger and his doctor has declared that he is no longer contagious, information relayed by the president himself on his Twitter account ("I cannot catch it (immune) and cannot transmit it Very good to know! ”).

This situation is not unprecedented in the history of the United States. Almost 140 years ago, the state of health of another president was the subject of a rather muddled communication on the part of the White House, reports the Washington Post.

On July 2, 1881, a certain Charles Guiteau shot on several occasions the American president, James A. Garfield, in a Washington station where the latter was about to take a train to give a speech in his former university. The president survived his injury but had to stay in bed.

A month after this attack, the press releases from the White House remained very reassuring.

"The President had a great night's sleep, and enjoyed a good sleep most of the time without the aid of morphine," reported the Doctors' Morning Bulletin, published in the New York Tribune of August 7, 1881. The improvement in his state of health had been noticeable for three days. “Her eyes have regained their former glow; his voice and complexion are closer to what they were when he was healthy and he's stronger. ” Cure seemed likely and the newspaper assured its readership that it could stop worrying.
Six weeks later, Garfield passed away.

Doctors accused of lying

According to Richard Menke, a professor at the University of Georgia, "the newsletters were fraudulently optimistic, perhaps to reassure Garfield who was often read in the papers and was therefore part of the large audience following his own story." These bulletins were transmitted by telegraph and published in national newspapers. According to the university professor, Garfield's recovery was "America's first live media event."

At the time of the attack, at the station, Dr DW Bliss, the President's personal physician, searched for the bullet lodged in Garfield's body, first with an unsterilized probe and then by sticking his finger deep into the wound, says historian Candice Millard in her book Destiny of the Republic - A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President. The president was brought back to the White House, conscious but vomiting.

Early reports on the president's health fluctuated wildly. The day after the assassination attempt, the Washington Evening Star published a rather reassuring health bulletin under the headline: "THE PRESIDENT IS ALIVE AND HE IS BETTER", in which it was about improving his health and improving his health. hope for recovery.

Doctors reported that the president had a good night's sleep "when the facts were totally different" according to the Chicago Tribune.

A few hours later, a new report called Garfield's condition "less favorable." But the frequent updates regularly became more positive. These statements reflected the endless confidence that Dr. Bliss had in his own abilities. "If I can't save him, nobody can" he would have said according to Candice Millard. Everything seemed to be fine until July 23 when the President's temperature began to rise and he had to be operated on, without anesthesia, to remove a pocket of pus formed around the wound.

If from July 26 the optimistic press releases started again, the atmosphere changed and all the press no longer took them at face value. The Chicago Tribune proceeded to accuse Garfield's doctors of lying when they reported that the president had had a good night "when the facts were totally different." There were other reasons for this mistrust. Doctors had failed to recover the bullet from Garfield's body. The inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, developed a device to locate her, without success. Garfield's doctor, Dr Bliss, had a rather original CV that included a quack treatment for cancer and a little stint in jail for corruption.

More importantly, Dr. Bliss did not believe in the importance of infection prevention, a fairly new theory and not widely used among older American doctors. The president's bouts of fever were blamed on malaria, and according to Millard, the president "was dying to rot" without Dr Bliss remedying it.

However, on August 18, the health bulletin declared itself "more optimistic" than that of the day before. Finally, Garfield's deplorable condition prompted cabinet members to say what the doctors and the newspapers were keeping quiet. "The end seems near," Secretary of State Lincoln told the Post on August 25. Garfield died on September 19.

Ironically, Charles Guiteau, the man who shot the president (and who was hanged the following year) said: "The doctors who poorly treated him should bear the burden of the hatred sparked by his death." , and not the one who attacked him. They are the ones who should be convicted of the murder of James A. Garfield, not me. ”

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