Did Trump Self-Report His Height?

Longtime TPM Reader BW has an interesting hypothesis about the chatter surrounding President Trump’s medical exam results.

I used to work for an academic research clinic in a facility renowned for obesity research (Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA). When I heard Dr. Jackson say yesterday that they did not measure Trump’s waist, it jumped out at me. Waist circumference is becoming increasingly recognized as an important measure of cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk, so to not take this simple measurement during a comprehensive physical especially on a borderline (at least) obese patient, struck me as odd. I began to wonder whether Trump simply refused to allow certain measurements to be done—not just the waist measurement but also height and weight. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of Trump standing next to other people of known height (and who, unlike Trump, don’t have a reputation for lying and embellishment), which appear inconsistent with the height reported on his physical–a height which nevertheless lets the BMI (weight divided by height squared) calculate to just a shade under “obese.”

Maybe it’s different when you’re POTUS, but we all know from going to the doctor that it’s usually a nurse or medical technician who does basic measurements like weight. What if Trump simply refused the nurse’s request to get on the scale or stadiometer, and just told him/her to record his self-reported height and weight? You’re the nurse and he’s the President of the United States, who happens to have a reputation for belligerence and lashing out (not to mention sexual harassment). This is a voluntary exam. Are you really going to press the issue when you have lab tests that tell you so much more than an imperfect tool like BMI? So just accept his self-reported numbers, be done with it, and move on. This is just my theory, but I can think of no other explanation for what seems to me like an obvious discrepancy between Trump’s reported BMI and numerous recent photos. If I’m right, it’s just another example of how Trump snares everyone who comes into contact with him, into his whirlpool of lies. No one escapes with their reputation and integrity intact; all are inevitably diminished in some way. As you have so often pointed out.

I don’t think these are major matters. I also don’t find this inherently implausible. I tend to be kind of naive and innocent on these matters. It’s very hard for me to believe that you get a Navy doctor to lie or falsify the results of a medical exam. What came out over the course of the day was very revealing to me and gives us what I think is the real picture, not just of Trump’s health but of how the doctor approached evaluating the self-declared healthiest President in history.

Over the course of the day there were a number of articles and reports by journalists and physician journalists. The gist was that based on what Dr. Jackson actually said, the diagnostic results he reported, his rosy assessment of Trump’s health wasn’t really merited. My take, based on a layman’s reading of a few of those articles, is that Trump is in reasonably good health for a man his age. But he has some level of heart disease and some key diagnostic indicators that are warning signs of heart disease risk and the need to make lifestyle changes and perhaps medicinal interventions. I don’t think we should overstate this. Low level heart disease for which lifestyle improvements are warranted is hardly the worst situation you can be in at Trump’s age.

What I take from this is that Dr. Jackson was not willing to falsify or not report moderately worrisome findings. But he was willing to portray these findings in what seems like a fairly unreasonable way. For reporters, it’s hard to see the difference. But doctors, particularly cardiologists, seem to have been pretty able to figure out the true situation based on the actual results data.

Of course, maybe a year from now or twenty years from now we’ll find out key details were left out or falsified. But I doubt it. Trump’s father lived to be 93. His mother lived to 88. He doesn’t drink or smoke and apparently never has. It’s not hard for me to believe he’s in reasonably good physical health for his age, despite his obesity and lack of exercise.