As Republican candidate Mehmet Oz continued to criticize Fetterman for not engaging in a debate, Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman promised to debate him. During a recent interview, Fetterman said, “We’re absolutely going to debate Dr. Oz, and that was really always our intent to do that. It was just simply only ever been about addressing some of the lingering issues of the stroke, the auditory processing, and we’re going to be able to work that out.”
Fetterman, who suffered a stroke in May, had speech problems in recent public appearances. He estimates the debate will take place in mid-October to late October. He pointed out that there is “literally no precedent” for a debate being held in September, stating that “it would never happen.” As many as four debates Oz offered would require Fetterman to stand at least for an hour during each occasion.
The remarks Fetterman made during the interview prompted the communications director for the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz, to mock Fetterman for failing to specify when and where the debate would be held. “Let’s be clear – Dr. Oz’s campaign won’t agree to a SECRET debate. It has to be a REAL one with REAL journalists asking REAL questions. Sorry John – imaginary debates don’t count!” Oz communications director Brittany Yanick said, per CNN and Daily Caller.
On August 12, after Fetterman’s return to the campaign trail, he rejected Oz’s request for a set of five debates. On August 30, Fetterman withdrew from another televised debate scheduled for September 6. Yannick called Fetterman “a liar, a liberal and a coward,” in response to his cancellation. During his Politico interview, Fetterman lashed out at Oz for “making fun of someone who is facing a major health care issue.”
The Oz campaign is not alone in suggesting that Fetterman’s stroke could impact his ability to perform the office duties he seeks. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board pointed out that if Fetterman “is not well enough to debate his opponent,” it would raise serious concerns about his ability to serve as a U.S. senator.
Pat Toomey, the outgoing Pennsylvania Republican senator, said he sympathized with Fetterman, but he added that without effective communication, the democratic candidate would be unable to do the job. “He’s either not as well as he claims to be, or he’s afraid to be called out for the radical policies he supports,” Toomey declared. “It’s one or the other.”
In a recent poll, Oz trailed behind Fetterman in the Pennsylvania Senate race for the seat of Senator Toomey. The rating of the race was recently upgraded by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report from “toss-up” to “lean Democrat.” Former President Trump visited the state recently to support several of his endorsers, including Oz, making his second visit to Pennsylvania this year so far.
“Let’s be clear this has never really been about debates for Dr. Oz. This whole thing has been about Dr. Oz and his team mocking me for having a stroke because they’ve got nothing else,” Fetterman stated.