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 senator seems not to remember being absent from the Capitol. https://t.co/lATbKz9Hwf
— Slate (@Slate) May 16, 2023
It’s clear that Fetterman’s stroke was significant—but it’s also evident he’s made significant progress in the past five to six months since. https://t.co/K0pzliLYHz
— Slate (@Slate) October 26, 2022
The Washington Post
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who at 89 is the oldest member of the Senate, had been absent since February after she was hospitalized with shingles. https://t.co/62ajc7d9im
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 10, 2023
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) has been discharged from the hospital and his depression is now in remission. In the statement, Fetterman said he’s 'so happy to be home." https://t.co/lGmnLq795G
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 31, 2023
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, 89, has been away from the Senate since February. https://t.co/9RLnRqZFaU
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) April 13, 2023
Stroke Survivors are pushing back after a news story referred to Sen. John Fetterman’s use of closed captioning as a 'special need." https://t.co/FJQ5NN4PvI
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 16, 2023
The Associated Press
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s monthslong absence from the Senate has become a vexing problem for Democrats who want to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees to the federal courts. Some pressure is emerging from her party and her state to resign. https://t.co/fbyaCpWK7y
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 14, 2023
Sen. John Fetterman’s staff said he’s experienced depression on and off in his life, but it had only become severe in recent weeks. He checked himself into the hospital for treatment this week, receiving praise for taking a public approach to his struggle.https://t.co/mOnuMdu80f pic.twitter.com/KhYWnYP50V
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 17, 2023
Will she or won't she be back? That's the question swirling around the Capitol as lawmakers ponder 89-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein's potential return this month amid questions about her health. https://t.co/08Ezo4S0cr
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 5, 2023
Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman is "doing well" and "remains on a path to recovery" as he continues to receive treatment for clinical depression, his office said Monday. https://t.co/hsX9Vsbi58
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 28, 2023
"How'd that work out for Roe v. Wade?"
CNN's @jaketapper presses Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) about Democrats not pushing retirement for former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, drawing a parallel to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). @CNNSotu #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/WduikwfbYu
— CNN (@CNN) May 7, 2023
Sen. John Fetterman, who returned to Congress this week after receiving treatment for clinical depression, is speaking out about how his tough Senate race last year worsened his mental health https://t.co/I1qtFhYfps
— CNN (@CNN) April 20, 2023
Sen. Dianne Feinstein is set to return to the Senate floor on Wednesday after a nearly three-month hiatus due to health issues, her spokesperson said Tuesday, amid growing calls for her resignation from within the party. pic.twitter.com/57M5lMQafR
— Forbes (@Forbes) May 9, 2023
"The fact that he was up front and admitted this is remarkable." @Z_Everson joins @dianebrady on Forbes Newsroom to discuss Sen. John Fetterman's checking into a hospital for clinical depression. https://t.co/zL9iZtdKT1 pic.twitter.com/1tAa9kRi9q
— Forbes (@Forbes) February 17, 2023
Dianne Feinstein's health struggles — and the problems they pose for representative democracy — go back farther than the public knew https://t.co/hccpsEXSbT
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) May 13, 2023
John Fetterman joins John McCain, Donald Trump, Patrick Leahy, and countless other politicians who have sought treatment at a hospital. https://t.co/OfvfhTceFh
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) February 16, 2023
Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to Congress this week after a months-long absence from illness, but it was not fully clear Thursday morning if she would make it to a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee. https://t.co/bBEKIXFCfJ
— Roll Call (@rollcall) May 11, 2023
John Fetterman had a stroke in May, but if recent history is any guide, a candidate's health doesn't usually affect voters' views. https://t.co/aKdGGJnaey
— Roll Call (@rollcall) October 25, 2022
— The Hill (@thehill) May 2, 2023
— The Hill (@thehill) February 16, 2023
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.).
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) March 16, 2021