Fetterman Won’t Debate Oz, Cites ‘Recovery’ From Massive Stroke

Pennsylvania lieutenant governor John Fetterman (D.) / Getty Images
August 31, 2022

Democratic Pennsylvania Senate hopeful John Fetterman will skip a debate with Republican Mehmet Oz next week as he works on his "auditory processing and speech" after suffering a massive stroke.

In a statement Tuesday, Fetterman accused Oz of making "a joke" out of his health struggles after the Republican's team offered to allow Fetterman to use notes and an earpiece during their debate. Oz's campaign also offered to pay for medical personnel to tend to Fetterman, whose speech has been noticeably slurred and choppy during his few public appearances.

"My recovery may be a joke to Dr. Oz and his team, but it's real for me," Fetterman said. "I will not be participating in a debate the first week of September, but look forward to having a productive discussion about how we can move forward and have a real conversation on this once Dr. Oz and his team are ready to take this seriously."

While Fetterman will miss the debate, he plans to meet with President Joe Biden at a Labor Day event in Pittsburgh. Fetterman's campaign says he will press Biden on decriminalizing marijuana. Fetterman skipped Biden's visit to Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday, though the president praised Fetterman multiple times during his gaffe-filled speech.

Oz and his allies have increasingly portrayed Fetterman as soft on crime. The Senate Leadership Fund on Tuesday released an ad citing the Washington Free Beacon's report that Fetterman cast the lone vote on the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons to free a man convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of a man for money to buy heroin. Oz's campaign released a letter from 13 Pennsylvania sheriffs criticizing Fetterman over his calls to release up to one-third of inmates from jail and his support for Philadelphia's progressive district attorney, Larry Krasner.

Fetterman has made Oz's wealth the centerpiece of his campaign, hitting the celebrity doctor for owning multiple houses and for referring to a vegetable plate as "crudités." But while Fetterman portrays himself as a blue-collar champion, the Free Beacon reported he sends his kids to a private school where tuition tops out at $34,000. Fetterman at the same time opposes vouchers for students in poorly performing districts.