Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal K. Perkins.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert on Friday openly questioned the mental faculties of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while speaking to an audience of social conservatives.
“A true believer does what Jesus did and still does but you don’t make fun of people who are impaired, have special needs. And whether you like her or not, Hillary Clinton has made clear she is mentally impaired," a stern-faced Gohmert said to audience laughter.
The Tyler Republican, who did not attend medical school, fueled escalating conservative speculation that Clinton is not physically fit to hold office. Such supposition from a sitting member of Congress is certain to enrage Democrats and is indicative of the increasingly no-holds-barred rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign.
“This is not somebody you should be making fun of,” Gohmert said at the Values Voters Summit. “I get the impression that in law school, and along the way she's been very, very smart. But I don't know maybe it was the concussion, the fall back that she did. Or maybe, who knows, they won’t tell us what’s really going on with her.”
"We need to be praying for Hillary Clinton,” he added. “There’s special needs there. There’s mental impairment.”
In a statement, Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal K. Perkins criticized Gohmert's remarks.
"Louie needs to take a long hard look in the mirror," Perkins said. "I’ll be praying for him and the rest of the crackpots left in Donald Trump’s Republican Party."
The litany of speculative diagnoses leveled at Clinton in recent weeks has included: Parkinson’s disease, a stroke, brain trauma and epilepsy. They are charges that incense both Democrats and some members of the medical community, citing the ethical appropriateness of a physician — let alone a layman — diagnosing a person from afar.
Still, some say such questions are merited.
The root of this speculation is Clinton’s age, 68, and a concussion she suffered in late 2012. Her Republican rival, Donald Trump, is 70.
Gohmert’s comments about Clinton added to a lengthy record of inflammatory statements by the congressman.
Clinton, much like Trump, has not met traditional protocol when it comes to releasing health information. But her personal physician, Lisa Bardack, wrote in 2015 that Clinton “is a healthy 67-year-old female whose current medical conditions include hypothyroidism [a common gland disorder] and seasonal pollen allergies.”
A Clinton interview in a recently released FBI report further incited commentary about her mental capacities. Clinton answered a number of questions citing a lack of memory — a frequent legal tactic to avoid perjury.
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