Fetterman's Hometown Newspaper Questions His 'Ability To Serve' After Skipping Debate

Democratic Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman and his wife Gisele in August / Getty Images
September 6, 2022

Democrat John Fetterman's hometown newspaper questioned the Pennsylvania Senate hopeful's "ability to serve" after he pulled out of a debate with Republican Mehmet Oz, citing his recovery from a stroke earlier this year.

In a scathing editorial, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Fetterman's refusal to debate raises "legitimate concerns" about his health. "Voters have a right to know whether their prospective senator can do the job—including handling the give-and-take of a vigorous debate," the editorial board said.

Fetterman, Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, said last week he would skip a debate with Oz this week as he works on his "auditory processing and speech" following a stroke in May. Fetterman also accused the Oz campaign of mocking his health for offering to provide medical personnel during the debate.

Fetterman's recovery has been far slower than expected. While his campaign initially said he would be back on the campaign trail "soon" after his stroke, he has made only a few public appearances and done even fewer interviews. Fetterman has relied heavily on his wife Gisele during those events. She sat by his side during an MSNBC interview last week, his first national interview since his stroke. Gisele was also spotted on Monday intervening as Fetterman was asked whether he would debate Oz.

Oz has made Fetterman's criminal justice reform policies a focal point of his campaign. On Tuesday, he cited the Washington Free Beacon's report that Fetterman cast the only vote on the board of pardons to release Wayne Covington, who was convicted of first-degree murder for killing a man while stealing money for heroin. Fetterman voted to free Covington last year, against the wishes of the victim's family.

Fetterman has not said whether he will debate Oz before the election in November. He said last week he "look[s] 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."