SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) – Four months after a life-threatening stroke forced him to withdraw off the campaign trail, John Fetterman, the Democratic contender for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, is making more appearances in front of voters to demonstrate his capacity to serve successfully.
His Republican opponent, famous doctor Mehmet Oz, claims Mr. Fetterman is hiding his health issues from voters by refusing to hold press conferences and agreeing to participate in only one debate.
Fetterman health issue details
That discussion is set for Oct. 25, two weeks before Election Day and more than a month after counties in Pennsylvania are permitted to begin early voting.
Mr. Fetterman claimed during a campaign event in Scranton, Pennsylvania’s northeast, on Saturday that he was still healing from a language processing difficulty induced by the stroke. He talked for around 13 minutes, making good arguments but fumbling a few times.
“The only difficulty with my health is a persistent issue with auditory processing,” he explained. “Occasionally, I may omit a word. Or, every now and then, I’ll mash two words together and make one that doesn’t exist,”
he remarked, before chastising Mr. Oz for sharing a video in which the Republican candidate blended the names of two local grocery chains, Wegmans and Redner’s, into one he named “Wegners.”
The election is one of a few high-stakes races for control of the Senate, where each party presently has 50 senators, and Democrats control the body only because Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties. Democrats would find it far more difficult to control the Washington agenda, confirm President Biden’s judicial choices, and enact the party’s favored legislation if they lost control of one or both houses.
Mr. Fetterman has regularly led in public opinion polls, with several recent polls showing him with a single-digit lead in a state that Mr. Biden won by roughly 1.2 percentage points in 2020. Both sides have spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising as a result of the fight.
Many elections include a discussion on the number and scheduling of debates. However, Mr. Fetterman’s admission that his stroke has left him with communication issues—but no cognitive disability, according to his campaign—has raised the question of how much Pennsylvania voters need to see him in an unfiltered situation to assess his talents.
The two camps have agreed that throughout the debate, Mr. Fetterman can observe monitors with closed-captioning of the questions and answers to assist him with his language-processing issue.
Mr. Fetterman should agree to many debates, including some before Sept. 19, when state law enables early voting to begin, according to the Oz campaign. Mr. Oz also believes the October debate should run 90 minutes, rather than the 60 minutes requested by the lieutenant governor.
“Doing one debate is simply demeaning to the people,” said Barney Keller, Mr. Oz’s campaign strategist. “It raises concerns about how unwell he is and if he can serve in the Senate.”
According to the Fetterman campaign, Senate debates in Pennsylvania are normally scheduled in mid-to-late October, and 83% of ballots in the 2020 race were cast after October 25.
According to a recent CBS News/YouGov survey, 59% of Pennsylvania voters felt Mr. Fetterman was healthy enough to serve in the Senate, while 41% did not. In Scranton, some audience members claimed they witnessed a few tiny missteps but classified them as nothing out of the ordinary for many public speakers.
Mr. Fetterman added of right-to-work legislation, which labor unions strongly oppose and are not part of Pennsylvania law, “We can never allow Dr. Oz vote to go right to work.” Labor contracts that force employees to join unions are prohibited under right-to-work laws.
Mr. Fetterman’s talk impressed Mt. Bethel resident Tom Gilmour, who backed his positions on legalized abortion and other issues. “He may be less eloquent, but he still stands for what he stood for,” said Mr. Gilmour, an advertising executive.
Mr. Fetterman, 53, suffered a stroke on May 13, four days before the Democratic primary, which he easily won. He watched the election results from a hospital bed and was off the campaign road for approximately three months.
According to his campaign, he has been at roughly ten public events since mid-August and has just begun communicating to journalists, one source at a time, often through video utilizing closed-captioning.
Fetterman criticizes Oz for giving him ‘cheap shots’ about his health and brands him a ‘clown’ whose pro-life position is scary.’
In an interview with MSNBC’s Alex Wagner on Thursday, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Pennsylvania John Fetterman slammed Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, for taking “cheap jabs” about his health on the campaign trail.
The Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor also called Oz a “clown” and chastised him for his “scary” pro-life beliefs, alleging they show he supports the federal abortion ban proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Wagner invited Fetterman on her new MSNBC nightly talk show Thursday night, and her mention of Fetterman’s health sparked the assaults on Dr. Oz. Fetterman suffered a stroke in May and claims to be still recovering. Critics, including Oz, have cautioned that Fetterman’s health issues should raise questions among voters about his fitness for office.
The presenter inquired about Fetterman’s rehabilitation. “I’m talking about that time in early May. How did you spend your summer? What was going on? What were your thoughts on life and your candidacy? “She inquired.
He began by recounting the stroke itself and how his wife assisted him. “My wife literally saved my life. I was driving to an event when she exclaimed, ‘Oh my my, you’re having a stroke.’ And I say, ‘No, I’m OK.’ We have to go to the event.’ And, in fact, she indicated you needed to obtain [help], which is precisely what happened “The candidate was reminded.
He expressed his sadness at the prospect of dying and leaving his family behind “And thinking about that, reflecting on that, that the fact that a father of three young children and a wife, and thinking of all those things,” he said, before mocking Dr. Oz and the Republican’s “cheap shots” about his health. That is ten times greater and ten times tougher than the cheap attacks that Dr. Oz has selected for his campaign.”
Fetterman said, “This is his narrative. He has to tell it the way he has to, but he has to own those words because a doctor choosing to insult someone recuperating from a stroke does not, in my opinion, suggest that he has lost his way. In reality, he’s never gotten his way.”
The Oz campaign has accused Fetterman of hiding behind his recuperation to avoid the Republican candidate in recent weeks, as the Lieutenant Governor has failed to agree to a debate for weeks. Despite this, Fetterman just agreed to debate Oz in late October.
Later in the discussion, Wagner brought up Sen. Graham’s idea for a 15-week federal abortion restriction to get Fetterman’s take on how it may affect Democratic hopes in the elections.
The candidate linked Dr. Oz to Graham’s idea right away, stating, “Dr. Oz may be a joke, but it isn’t funny when abortion is on the ballot. And it’s a simple question: Do you favor the Republican effort to outlaw abortion? Do you agree or disagree?”
Fetterman was asked if Graham’s plan is a “gift” to Democrats in order to increase voting participation, and he responded no.
“I don’t consider it a gift; in fact, it’s a very hazardous type of law,” he answered. “What’s even scarier is that Dr. Oz would vote to end abortion rights in America,” he continued.
“The fact is that he may be a clown, but a clown with a vote is quite terrifying, and we may have to make sure that we send him back to New Jersey,” Fetterman said.