During a highly anticipated debate against Republican Mehmet Oz on Tuesday, Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman refused to agree to disclose his complete medical records. Fetterman spoke haltingly during the hour-long event, more than five months after suffering a stroke.
After having a stroke in May, Pennsylvania’s 53-year-old lieutenant governor Fetterman revealed that he “nearly died.” Tuesday evening, he addressed the “elephant in the room,” as he termed it.
“I had a stroke. “He has never allowed me to forget it,” said Fetterman of his Republican opponent. It knocked me down, but I will continue to rise.
He also attempted to go on the offensive by targeting Oz’s “huge houses” and his character.
Fetterman remarked, “It’s the Oz rule: if he’s on TV, he’s lying.”
Oz, a renowned heart surgeon, ignored his opponent’s health for the whole discussion, despite constantly attacking Fetterman on the matter during the campaign. Oz slammed Fetterman’s crime policies on Tuesday night, stating that he is “trying to get as many killers out of jail as possible.”
Oz alleged that these radical ideas went beyond criminality. Later, he added, “His radical views have rendered him untenable.”
Fetterman claimed he is prepared to meet the Senate’s expectations as he continues to heal from a stroke. According to independent experts contacted by The Associated Press, his condition looks remarkably improving. During the debate, he utilized closed captioning to better understand the words he heard.
Dr. Sonia Sheth, a stroke rehabilitation specialist who observed the argument, described Fetterman as an inspiration for stroke survivors.
According to Sheth of Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago’s suburbs, he performed well. “He had a stroke less than a year ago, and his recovery will continue throughout the next year. There were a few blunders in his comments, but he was generally able to provide fluent meaningful solutions.”
Experts concluded that problems with auditory processing do not necessarily indicate cognitive difficulties. The brain’s language network is distinct from decision-making and critical thinking regions.
Although debates have seldom swayed elections in the modern era, the enormous national interest in the primetime spectacle — notably in Fetterman’s performance — signaled that this debate could be significant in an election crucial to the Democrats’ urgent effort to keep their Senate majority.
There is no bigger pickup chance for Democrats in the United States than the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in a state that Joe Biden nearly won in 2020.
Throughout most of the year, Fetterman appeared to be the obvious favorite, especially as Republicans engaged in a vicious nomination battle that left the party deeply divided and unhappy. As Election Day approaches, though, the contest has tightened. And now, with only two weeks until the final vote, even the White House is secretly anxious that Fetterman’s campaign is in jeopardy.
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Statewide voting is already well underway. As of Tuesday, 639 thousand votes had been cast.
Fetterman’s speech difficulties were evident throughout the evening. He frequently had difficulty completing phrases.
His response was especially embarrassing when challenged with an explanation of his changed stance on fracking.
“I am in favor of fracking. Also, I do not, I do not. “I support fracking, and I stand by that statement,” he stated.
On another occasion, the moderator appeared to interrupt Fetterman as he attempted to explain Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness initiatives. He also faltered before completing a crucial attack line: “We must ensure that Dr. Oz and Republicans support Medicare and Social Security cuts.”
The Pennsylvania Senate candidates squared off inside a television studio in Harrisburg. The debate was closed to the public, and the debate host, Nexstar Media, denied access to an AP photographer.
This was the first and only significant statewide debate in Pennsylvania this year after Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano could not agree on the rules of a gubernatorial debate.
Due in part to his honest working-class appeal, unusual height, tattoos, and uncompromising progressive ideals, Fetterman has amassed a loyal following in progressive politics across the country. On Tuesday, the 6-foot-9-inch Democrat abandoned his signature sweatshirt and shorts in favor of a dark suit and tie.
In contrast, Fetterman’s health has emerged as a significant issue in the last weeks of the election, even as candidates debate abortion, crime, and inflation.
Oz had pushed for more than a half-dozen debates, implying that Fetterman’s reluctance to participate in more than one was due to the stroke’s debilitating effects. Fetterman maintained that one debate is standard, albeit two is more common, and that Oz’s emphasis on debates was a cynical tactic to lie about his health.
The televised debate environment would have likely favored Oz without questions about the stroke, according to Democrats.
Oz is a veteran television personality who hosted “The Dr. Oz Show” weekdays for 13 seasons after making his debut in 2004 as a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey’s program. Fetterman, in comparison, is a naturally introverted public speaker with little experience.
This was always going to be an away game for John Fetterman, according to Philadelphia-based Democratic political consultant Mustafa Rashed.
Fetterman requested a closed-captioning system for the discussion, and his request was approved. The closed-captioning system presented all spoken words on a huge screen behind the moderators.
Before the debate, the Fetterman campaign warned in a memo that the closed captioning would be “typed out by humans in real time, on live television,” which could result in time delays, transcription errors, and miscommunication. The document stated, “It is impossible to control and inescapable.”
The abortion issue was a prominent point of contention during the debate.
Oz claims he favors three exceptions: rape, incest, and protecting the mother’s life. When questioned on Tuesday evening, he said he opposes South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s idea to outlaw abortions after 15 weeks nationwide because it would allow the federal government to dictate state laws.
Oz stated, “I will not support federal regulations that restrict the ability of states to act as they see fit.”
Fetterman stated that he would support legislation proposed by Democrats to allow abortions up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Separately, he has stated that he opposes establishing restrictions on abortion and prefers to leave the decision to women.
“I want to look into the eyes of every woman in Pennsylvania: If you believe Dr. Oz should determine your reproductive freedom, that’s your decision. “But if you believe that the decision to have an abortion belongs to you and your doctor, I fight for that,” Fetterman stated.
Fetterman also expressed concerns regarding Oz’s residence, a recurring subject throughout the campaign.
Fetterman has utilized Oz’s fragile ties to the state in funny social media posts and media campaigns throughout most of the year.
Oz was born in Ohio, raised in Delaware, and has resided for decades in New Jersey. People magazine published an article in 2020 about the New Jersey estate that Oz and his wife Lisa “constructed from scratch” 20 years prior.
Later that year, Oz established a Pennsylvania address officially. The following year, 2021, he began his Senate campaign.
Meanwhile, concerns over Fetterman’s mental and physical strength have persisted.
Tuesday night, when pressed, Fetterman declined to indicate that he would reveal his medical records.
“Transparency, for me, means showing up,” he remarked.
Fetterman has frequently rejected requests to provide his medical records or to allow reporters to question his physicians. Last Monday, he released a note from his primary care physician stating that Fetterman is recuperating well, exhibiting no cognitive impairments, and is “fit for full-duty public service.”
According to Fetterman’s campaign, he is healthier than ever now, paying more attention to his food and walking several kilometers daily. He is currently engaged in regular speech therapy sessions and taking medication.
Fetterman attempted to view his health issues as positive.
“My campaign is all about fighting for anyone in Pennsylvania that ever got knocked down,” he said