(WHTM) – The heat is picking up in the Pennsylvania Senate Race after Democrat nominee John Fetterman said he would not debate Republican Mehmet Oz in early September as he continues to recover from a stroke suffered in May.
On Tuesday evening Fetterman’s campaign released a statement saying the Lieutenant Governor would not participate in a proposed television debate in Pittsburgh.
“As I recover from this stroke and improve my auditory processing and speech, I look forward to continuing to meet with the people of Pennsylvania,” said Fetterman.
“Today’s statement from Dr. Oz’s team made it abundantly clear that they think it is funny to mock a stroke survivor. I chose not to participate in this farce. Any sense that these “challenges” were done in good faith is damaged.
In response, a statement from Oz’s communications Director posted on Oz’s Twitter said “John Fetterman is a liar, a liberal, and a coward.” Rachel Tripp, Oz’s senior communications adviser, previously said “if John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke.”
Oz’s campaign has also made “offers” for Fetterman to wear an earpiece during debates for staff to feed him answers, bathroom breaks, and to pay for medical personnel.
“I find it pretty despicable that somebody who is a medical professional would be trying to use somebody recovering from a stroke to be as flippant and disgraceful in his language that Dr. Oz has been,” said Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, who shared a debate stage with Fetterman during the primary weeks prior to the stroke.
“John is more than happy to contrast who he will be as a senator, who Oz will be as a senator,” said Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia). “He’s doing that every day across Pennsylvania and they will debate at some point.”
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On May 15, two days after being admitted to Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital ahead of the primary election, Fetterman said he was “feeling much better, and the doctors tell me I didn’t suffer any cognitive damage. I’m well on my way to a full recovery.”
Less than three weeks later on June 3, Fetterman released a letter from his cardiologist saying he “should be able to campaign and serve in the U.S. Senate without a problem” after previously not taking his health seriously.
In 2017 Fetterman was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm, along with a decreased blood pump, according to his doctor. After the stroke, Fetterman received a pacemaker – defibrillator and temporarily transferred his Lieutenant Governor duties.
Fetterman was not on the campaign trail for several months and recently held his first major rally in Erie.
Oz has agreed to attend an exclusive prime-time debate hosted by Nexstar Media Inc. on October 5 at 8 p.m. Fetterman has not indicated if he will participate and a location will be announced in the coming weeks.