Two Democratic Senators Are Not Compos Mentis. The Press Is Only Paying Attention to One.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and John Fetterman
May 17, 2023

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and John Fetterman (D, Pa.) both returned to the Senate in recent weeks after prolonged medical absences. Both have provided crucial votes for the chamber's narrow Democratic majority. And both have struggled to carry on basic conversations due to apparently severe mental impairment.

Though the two Democrats are in similar circumstances, the corporate press has covered them very differently. Feinstein has been a media zero, while Fetterman has gotten the hero treatment.

What explains the gap? Well, it just so happens that only one of them is easily replaceable.

Feinstein, 89, was wheeled back into the Senate last week following a three-month convalescence from shingles in California. She has faced a barrage of headlines about her senility, her holdup of the Democratic agenda, and growing calls within the party for her to resign.

Fetterman, 53, resumed his duties in mid-April fresh off two months of in-patient treatment at Walter Reed Hospital for severe clinical depression in the aftermath of a stroke. Unedited footage of him on the job has been hard to watch. But media have nonetheless declared him "ready to work," and at least one reporter went so far as to clean up his borderline incoherent remarks.

Here's a side-by-side look at some of the contrasting reporting on the Democrat duo, broken down by news outlet.


The Washington Post

BuzzFeed News

The Associated Press

CBS News



Rolling Stone

Roll Call

The Hill

Both Feinstein and Fetterman represent states with Democratic governors, who would temporarily appoint another Democrat to replace them if necessary. But only one of their states is safely "blue" and governed by Gavin Newsom (D.).