After much buzzing in Washington about Senator Dianne Feinstein's seemingly rushed return — after a nearly three-month absence — to the Senate, looking and sounding not-100%, her spokesperson has now clarified what is going on, health-wise.
Upon Feinstein's return to her Senate duties last week, the public was told that the 89-year-old senator continued to suffer "some side effects from the shingles virus." And these were described as vision and balance impairments.
Now the New York Times reported Thursday that there are more precise reasons why Feinstein appeared so "shockingly diminished" upon her return. They learned that Feinstein's shingles case had "spread to her face and neck, causing vision and balance impairments," and something called Ramsay Hunt syndrome — which happens when the shingles virus affects a nerve inside the ear — which causes partial facial paralysis.
A spokesperson for the senator, Adam Russell, further confirmed that Feinstein experienced encephalitis as a result of the shingles, though that infection cleared quickly during her brief hospitalization.
Post-infection encephalitis, which causes brain swelling, can cause "lasting memory or language problems, sleep disorders, bouts of confusion, mood disorders, headaches and difficulties walking," as the Times explains.
In speaking to reporters Tuesday, Feinstein once again appeared confused, and seemed unaware of her three-month absence. "No, I haven’t been gone,” Feinstein said. “No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting."
The Times printed their story before Feinstein's office responded, and beyond confirming the facts, they only offered this statement from Feinstein, which was similar to last week's: "I’m back in Washington, voting and attending committee meetings while I recover from complications related to a shingles diagnosis. I continue to work and get results for California."
And, per the Times, "Many people close to Ms. Feinstein, a six-term senator, described seeing her operating in the Senate in her current state as 'frightening,' a tragic end to a formidable career in politics that they worry is casting a shadow over her legacy and her achievements."
They report that Feinstein declined to answer or return calls from colleagues and Governor Gavin Newsom during her time recuperating in San Francisco — the call from Newsom was answered by an aide and apparently she never called him back.
Also, from the Times, "People close to her joke privately that perhaps when Ms. Feinstein is dead, she will start to consider resigning."
Top image: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) escorts Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as she arrives at the U.S. Capitol following a long absence due to health issues on May 10, 2023 in Washington, DC. Feinstein was fighting a case of shingles and has been absent from the Senate for almost three months. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)