Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman struggled to participate in a recent interview with New York magazine, requiring closed captioning technology to understand his interviewer.
Fetterman, who serves as Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, has struggled with auditory processing and speaking since he suffered a stroke in May. While his campaign has insisted he is on the road to recovery and is fit to serve in the Senate, Fetterman's interview in early October for a New York profile revealed that the Democrat still has difficulty with basic communication. The magazine disclosed that during a video call interview, Fetterman used a closed captioning program to understand questions, reading them in real time.
"Our 50-minute conversation, in which I could see his eyes moving swiftly across his computer screen as he read and responded to my questions in real time, included moments … where it was clear that Fetterman's vexation amplified his communicative challenges," wrote Rebecca Traister, the author of the profile.
Traister described Fetterman as "lucid," "animated," and "eloquent" in the interview, a characterization seemingly contradicted by Traister's subsequent descriptions of Fetterman's expressiveness:
At one point, when we were talking about his work to address crime and gun violence while mayor of Braddock, Fetterman said what sounded like a nonsense word. "To have an actual domicated—" he paused. "Excuse me, domentated—" He paused again, getting frustrated. "Yeah," he added with a small smile, "this is the stroke right here." Then he took a breath. "Documented," he said. "Documented."
Fetterman's campaign has agreed to an Oct. 25 debate with Republican opponent Mehmet Oz, on the condition that Fetterman have access to a closed captioning monitor to read questions as they come in.
The race has tightened in recent months, as Oz's campaign has pointed to Fetterman's criminal justice reform rhetoric and tenure leading Pennsylvania's Board of Pardons, during which Fetterman tried to free murderers, as proof that the Democrat is soft on crime.