Fetterman, Showing Effects of Stroke, Struggles in Pennsylvania Senate Debate Against Dr. Oz

Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman struggled to explain his positions in the lone Pennsylvania Senate debate against Dr. Mehmet Oz more than five months after suffering a stroke.


Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman struggled to explain his positions in the lone Pennsylvania Senate debate against Dr. Mehmet Oz more than five months after suffering a stroke.

  • The two candidates clashed over abortion, fracking, crime and inflation at an at-times contentious debate as polls show the race for retiring Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat is a dead heat. Both parties believe the winner of the Pennsylvania Senate race will control the Senate.
  • Dr. Oz, the Republican nominee, hammered Fetterman for his previous support for a fracking moratorium, the decriminalization of all drugs, and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Fetterman repeatedly attacked Oz for owning 10 properties, prompting a stinging retort from Oz: “the irony is that John Fetterman didn’t pay for his own house; he got it for $1.”
  • Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor, suffered a stroke in May but has refused to release his medical records, a stance he reiterated at the debate. “Transparency is about showing up. I am here for the debate,” Fetterman said. He used a closed captioning system during the debate to assist with his auditory processing issues.
  • Mehmet Oz appeared confident and polished on Tuesday night. The Republican nominee emphasized his plans to fight crime, inflation, and illegal immigration. He took moderate stances on abortion and gun control in a pitch targeted at suburban voters and avoided any attacks on Fetterman regarding his health.
  • Hours before the debate, POLITICO reported a super PAC affiliated with Senate Republicans would pour another $6 million into Pennsylvania’s Senate race to help Oz defeat Fetterman and keep the seat in Republican hands.
  • The Oz-Fetterman bout wasn’t the only debate on Tuesday night. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and her challenger Rep. Lee Zeldin sparred over crime as polls show New York’s gubernatorial election is much closer than expected.
  • Candidates for Michigan governor and senator from Colorado also debated on Tuesday. All four debates featured questions on the economy, inflation, abortion rights, and energy.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times observed Oz and Fetterman could “scarcely conceal their disdain for each other, or the scope of their disagreements.” Oz repeatedly tried to “tack to the political center” and cast himself as a “problem-fixing surgeon” compared to the “radical” Fetterman. Fetterman addressed the “elephant in the room,” his health, and attacked Oz for having 10 homes.
  • The Washington Post reported moderators put both candidates on the defensive. Oz defended his health recommendations from his time hosting the “Dr. Oz” show. After repeated questioning about his past opposition to fracking, Fetterman finally replied, “I do support fracking. And I don’t, I don’t. I support fracking, and I stand, and I do, support fracking.”
  • Axios called Fetterman’s performance “painful” in its coverage of Capitol Hill’s “brutal” reaction to the debate. “Why the hell did Fetterman agree to this?” one Fetterman-backing lawmaker told Axios. The best defense Democrats could muster was criticizing Oz’s temerity for “spending tens of millions of dollars against a man with a major medical condition.”



  • The Washington Examiner wrote Fetterman “paired his halting and often verbally jumbled answers with sharp attacks on Oz” while Oz leveled his own “incisive attacks” and gave vague responses on gun control and abortion without taking firm stances.
  • John Podhoretz wrote in the New York Post he had “never seen anything like the Pennsylvania Senate debate” and he hopes “never to have to see anything like it ever again. It was horrible.” “Seeing Fetterman struggle to answer simple questions and form simple sentences was nothing less than an agony,” Podhoretz continued. He was reluctant to directly quote Fetterman or specifically criticize his answers as it would be “unnecessarily cruel.”
  • “John Fetterman should not have been on a debate stage tonight. He should be at home, recovering from his stroke,” Michael Brendan Dougherty argued for National Review. He called it a “scandal” that Gisele Barreto Fetterman, Fetterman’s campaign team, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, and “any national party figures who were aware of his condition before this debate” all insisted Fetterman continue his campaign after suffering a serious medical incident.


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© Dominic Moore, 2022