Why Did Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald Tweet That Trump Had Been Institutionalized in 1990?

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Yesterday’s biggest political mystery began when Kurt Eichenwald, a senior writer at Newsweek sent out a strange tweet that he later deleted. Here’s the screencap, courtesy of Rolling Stone’s Corbin Reiff:

If you can't see the image, the important tweet from Eichenwald says:

“I believe Trump was institutionalized in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown in 1990, which is why he won't release medical records.”

When he deleted the tweet later, Eichenwald explained that it was only because people were mistakenly thinking his upcoming cover story was about the alleged breakdown:

The story that came out today focused on Trump's foreign business ties and how they might disrupt U.S. national security, but it leaves the nervous breakdown question unanswered. Why did Eichenwald tweet it? One theory is that he was making a vaguely humorous point about Trump failing to release his medical records, and how all we can do is wildly speculate in their absence. But that doesn't feel true—Eichenwald is a serious journalist, and if he had made that kind of joke, it seems as though he would have either apologized or at least explained himself by now. Instead, the situation reads more like he's simply put it on the back burner for the time being.

If there's no evidence behind it, it seems like a super irresponsible tweet for someone like Eichenwald, but it's also strange for him to send that kind of information into the world in the first place without firm backing, and then to leave it hanging with only vague follow-up references. Unsurprisingly, he faced a steady stream of abuse from Trump supporters, some of which got ugly (and inaccurate):

After deleting the tweet, he continued to argue for its political significance, which seems like more evidence that he wasn't taking a poor stab at satire in the first place:

Then again, his timeline is full of anger at the double standard in reporting as it’s applied to Clinton and Trump this election cycle. This story is just beginning, and it could well be that it’s also ending. At the very least, it would be nice if Eichenwald gave us a concrete explanation about the origins of the first tweet.

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