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The Throat Lozenges That Saved Bernie Sanders’s Campaign-Ravaged Voice

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailer; Getty

About a quarter of the way through The Fighting Soul, Ari Rabin-Havt’s new book about Bernie Sanders’s most recent run for president, a funny little detail emerges. “After he lost his voice in September 2019,” Rabin-Havt writes, “a friend recommended a specific and hard to find brand of cough drop — Grether’s Blackcurrant Pastilles.”

Curious to hear more about the pastilles’ effectiveness — and how they landed in Sanders’s hands in the first place — we reached out to Rabin-Havt.

“It was September 2019, rally in Colorado: 10,000 people. And he blew out his voice completely,” he said. A week later, we had the debate. And he sounded terrible. It wasn’t getting better.” Sanders had apparently been eating Halls to no avail when the friend, who’d seen the debate and noticed Sanders sounded raspy, called with the Grether’s Pastilles suggestion. “I don’t remember who he was, but he was someone who knew performers,” Rabin-Havt says, “because he said it was the cough drop all the performers used and that it worked really well.”

The forgotten friend was correct on both fronts. According to the “On Everyone’s Lips” page of the Grether’s Pastilles website, Katy Perry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ariana Grande, and Curt Hansen are all obsessive fans of the Swiss drops made with vitamin C–heavy elderflower and glycerin and specifically meant to soothe strained vocal cords. The pastilles worked so well for Sanders, says Rabin-Havt, that advance staffers made a point of keeping them on hand at all times just in case. “For weeks after the campaign ended, advance staff would text each other with pictures of tins and the tiny black candies they found in the crevasses of their bags,” writes Rabin-Havt in his book.

The best evidence of the pastilles’ effectiveness is perhaps this video of Bernie taken on September 28, 2019 — just a couple weeks after a Washington Examiner article had said Sanders “appeared to croak his way through his opening statement.” He sounds as clear as a bell.

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The Throat Lozenges That Saved Bernie Sanders’s Voice