Democratic candidate John Fetterman’s health has come under questioning following his performance in a debate against Republican opponent Dr Mehmet Oz on Tuesday night. Fetterman, 53, had a stroke in May and addressed the issue during his speech, insisting it would not impact his performance as Pennsylvania’s senate. However, political commentators on the right and left have expressed concerns about his health.
Fetterman, who has served as the 34th lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania since 2019, suffered a stroke on May 13. He addressed his health condition at the start of the debate against Oz – a TV doctor.
“Let’s also talk about the elephant in the room: I had a stroke,” he said in his opening remarks, adding of his opponent: “He’ll never let me forget that.”
Fetterman said he may “miss some words” and “push two words together”, while he paused for long periods of time between questions.
His performance has gained some criticism from members of the opposition, as well as sympathisers.
Analysing the debate, a panel on CNN largely criticised Fetterman’s performance, with Barack Obama’s former senior adviser saying the Democrat hopeful “did not help” his cause.
David Axelrod said: “Fetterman needed to show he’s sufficiently recovered, and this debate surely did not help.”
CNN host Alisyn Camerota said she had interviewed him previously, claiming he sounded “different” and more “clear-spoken” before the stroke.
Charlie Dent, a former Republican congressman for Pennsylvania, said Fetterman was “flustered”, “confused” and not fit to be on the debate stage.
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Donald Trump Jnr was criticial of the Pennsylvania senate hopeful after the debate aired.
Writing on Twitter, he said: “OMG John Fetterman it’s worse than any of us could have ever imagined.
“I think that’s four in a row to Mehmet Oz.”
But some people are still backing Fetterman. Dr Abdul El-Sayed, a public health doctor, wrote on Twitter: “John Fetterman thinks clearly and deeply about government, even if a stroke interrupted his ability to speak as eloquently as he used to.
“Dr Oz made a career of speaking eloquently without thinking about the consequences.”
While Jessica Benham, a Pennsylvania state representative, wrote: “John Fetterman has been transparent about his health. His doctor says he is fit to serve. That’s good enough for me.
“We should be focusing on the real issue: Oz’s lack of empathy for the struggles of Pennsylvanians.”
Last week, Mr Fetterman released a letter from his primary care doctor saying he is recovering well from the stroke and can “work full duty in public office” with no restrictions.
Pennsylvania’s next senator will be announced on midterm Election Day, November 8.