As we know the world is reeling under the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout American history, an uncomfortable truth has been evident: Presidents have lied about their health. And sometimes it took decades for the public to learn the truth.
Now President Donald Trump has been diagnosed with the Covid-19 disease.Earlier he White House said that he had “mild symptoms.” By Friday evening, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre. After a rosy press conference by the president’s medical team, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Saturday that Trump had gone through a “very concerning” period Friday and that the next 48 hours would be critical in terms of his care.
Pandemics have cursed the presidencies of both Trump and Woodrow Wilson. Each played down the viruses that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Both presidents got sick and each had to decide how much to tell the public.
Like many administrations before, Wilson’s White House tried to keep his sickness secret.
He was at talks in Paris on ending World War I when he fell ill in April 1919. His symptoms were so severe and surfaced so suddenly that his personal physician, Cary Grayson, thought he had been poisoned. After a fitful night caring for Wilson, Grayson wrote a letter back to Washington to inform the White House that the president was very sick.
Flash forward 100 years. In a tweet at 12:54 am Friday, Trump told the world that he and first lady Melania Trump had contracted Covid-19.
President Grover Cleveland, fearing poor health would be a political weakness, underwent secret oral surgery late at night in a private yacht in Long Island Sound. The cancerous lesion taken from his mouth was displayed in 2000 in an exhibit by the College of Physicians, a Philadelphia-based medical society.
President Lyndon B Johnson secretly underwent surgery for removal of a skin lesion on his hand in 1967.
After leading the nation through a decade of war and depression, Franklin D Roosevelt was diagnosed early in 1944 as suffering from high blood pressure, hypertensive heart disease, cardiac failure and acute bronchitis.
The problems also betrayed an underlying arteriosclerosis – hardening of the arteries. Roosevelt was put on a low-salt diet and ordered to cut down on smoking. But with an election coming on, Roosevelt and the White House staff issued a statement saying the problem was far less serious.
“The stories that he’s in bad health are understandable enough around election time, but they are not true,” his doctor told a reporter. Historians now believe his doctors concealed all the facts from their patient and the public.
Roosevelt won reelection. Only months later, on April 12, 1945, he died of a stroke.
According to historian Robert Dallek, President John F Kennedy suffered more pain and illness than most people knew and took as many as eight medications a day, including painkillers, stimulants, sleeping pills and hormones to keep him alive. As president, Kennedy was known for having a bad back, and since his death, biographers have pieced together details of other illnesses, including persistent digestive problems and Addison’s disease, a life-threatening lack of adrenal function. Kennedy went to great lengths to conceal his ailments, even denying to reporters that he had Addison’s disease.
President Dwight D Eisenhower had a serious heart attack in 1955, while vacationing in Colorado. He was hospitalised for six weeks. Instead of advising Eisenhower not to run for a second term, his doctor recommended that more time in office would aid his recovery.
In 1841, William Henry Harrison became ill with what doctors thought was pneumonia caused by cold weather during his inauguration, where he rode horseback sans topcoat. The White House did not tell the public that Harrison was sick. Harrison died just nine days after becoming ill and only one month after taking the oath of office.