Fetterman, who suffered a stroke days before the commonwealth’s primary election, has stumbled and slurred his speech in multiple public appearances while his campaign dodges questions about whether Fetterman will debate his rival. In an interview with Politico, however, Fetterman affirmed that he intends to appear on the debate stage with Oz.
“We’re absolutely going to debate Dr. Oz, and that was really always our intent to do that,” Fetterman said. “It was just simply only ever been about addressing some of the lingering issues of the stroke, the auditory processing, and we’re going to be able to work that out.”
Fetterman did not specify details of the debate, although he told the outlet that it will occur “sometime in the middle to end of October” on a “major television station” in Pennsylvania. He added that his campaign is considering the use of a closed captioning monitor so that he does not miss details.
“We’re just exploring that,” he remarked. “I have every ability to talk about all of these issues and have a full debate. And that’s really just the one lingering issue of the stroke — that some of my hearing was damaged a little bit, but it’s continuing to get better and better and better every day.”
Oz also noticed the lack of specificity. “We keep hearing that the Fetterman campaign is in debate talks with networks,” the television cardiologist commented on social media. “What networks? He won’t say. What terms? He won’t say. John Fetterman sure has a lot of people speaking for him, but does very little speaking himself.”
Fetterman — who served as the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, from 2006 to 2019 — told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in July that he felt “really good” and has no “physical limits.” Yet the paper’s editorial board questioned the candidate’s fitness in a Tuesday opinion piece.
“If Mr. Fetterman’s communication skills have not yet recovered sufficiently to effectively debate his opponent, many voters will have concerns about his ability to represent them effectively in Washington,” the editorial board contended. “While he has gamely undertaken more campaign events and media interviews in recent weeks, Mr. Fetterman still speaks haltingly and relies on closed captioning to fully understand his conversation partners.”
The editorial board also noted the unpredictable nature of stroke recovery. “Mr. Fetterman’s campaign asserts confidently that he will make a full recovery, and that he is doing the hard work — including speech therapy — to accelerate that recovery,” the piece added. “The campaign’s early predictions proved optimistic; the more recent predictions of ‘several months’ to a ‘complete recovery’ may prove optimistic, too.”
The controversial politician — who wears hoodies and basketball shorts while in public and towers at six feet, eight inches — couples his unorthodox appearance with unorthodox policies. Fetterman has repeatedly nodded to drug decriminalization and monitored injection sites, as well as defended Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who is currently under investigation from Republican and Democratic members of the Pennsylvania House for allegedly neglecting to enforce the city’s laws.