Bernie Sanders acknowledged on Wednesday that he knew he had suffered a heart attack three days before his campaign released that information, but he defended the decision to keep those details private.
Mr. Sanders’s campaign had been inundated with questions from the news media last week as he recovered at a hospital in Las Vegas, and speculation about whether he had had a heart attack spread on social media and among voters. Campaign officials waited until Mr. Sanders was released from the hospital on Friday, smiling and waving to news reporters, before disclosing that he had.
In an interview with NBC News, Mr. Sanders said a doctor at an urgent care facility in Las Vegas, where he went last Tuesday night after experiencing chest pain, had informed him that he was having a “heart event.” The interviewer then asked if the doctor had said he was having a heart attack, to which Mr. Sanders said, “Yeah.”
His campaign did not announce that until Friday, saying only that doctors had inserted two stents to open a blocked artery — a fairly common procedure. A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, means that there was at least some damage to the heart muscle.
Mr. Sanders, 78, rejected the idea that his campaign had showed a lack of transparency in not disclosing the information more quickly.
“No, I don’t accept that. I think that’s a media thing,” he told NBC, adding that his campaign had been trying “to understand what in fact is going on.”
“I think we did it appropriately and did it as quickly as we could,” he said. “No apologies.”
His wife, Jane Sanders, said in an interview with The New York Times that she had received the heart attack news on Thursday, and that it was her decision to wait to release that information until her husband was discharged the next day.
Mr. Sanders and his family were dealing with another crisis at the same time: the cancer diagnosis of his daughter-in-law, Rainè Riggs. Ms. Riggs — who was married to Mr. Sanders’s son Levi Sanders — died this weekend at age 46.
“I heard it on Thursday,” Ms. Sanders said, referring to her husband’s heart attack. “But frankly, I wasn’t thinking about the campaign.”
Asked in the NBC interview what voters should think with regard to the future of his campaign, Mr. Sanders said: “People should think that I had a procedure which hundreds of thousands of people a year have. People should think that according to the doctors, I’m on the way to a full recovery.”