Fetterman declines to commit to releasing more medical records and points to improvements in speech
Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman on Wednesday declined to say whether he would release more medical records in the wake of his near fatal stroke in May – only suggesting he would do so if something about his health changed.
In the nearly hour-long livestreamed interview with the PennLive editorial board on Wednesday, Fetterman acknowledged the “elephant in the room” that he had a stroke and repeatedly attacked his GOP opponent Mehmet Oz for declining to speak with the editorial board. Fetterman stood by the short letter his doctor released in June about the candidate’s health.
“I would say that if there is anything that changed, I absolutely would have updated that, other than the progress that I have made is evident,” Fetterman, the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, said.
The race between Oz and Fetterman represents the best chance for Democrats to flip a Senate seat in the evenly divided Senate. Recent polling has shown a tightening race between the two candidates, with Oz closing the polling advantage that Fetterman opened over the summer.
Fetterman’s health has hung over much of the race. The Democrat spent two months off the campaign trail after the stroke and slowly began to re-emerge with fundraisers and some interviews. Oz’s campaign has sought to use Fetterman’s health as a way to question his fitness for the job, hoping that voters who doubt his abilities will back a Republican in November – even in a state President Joe Biden narrowly won in 2020.
But a Fox News poll released in late September found most registered voters in Pennsylvania weren’t worried about Fetterman’s health. When asked if they were “concerned Fetterman isn’t healthy enough to carry out the job of Senator,” 61% said no, compared to 34% who said yes.
Although Fetterman did drop a few words and had to rephrase a few things during the Wednesday interview, he spoke with more confidence and fluidity than he has before, including in recent stump speeches.
The candidate also acknowledged that his speech has gotten better in recent months.
“I certainly would not have been able to sit in front of you back in May or in June or in July,” Fetterman said.
As he has in all interviews since his stroke, Fetterman was using closed captioning during the sit down – something he acknowledged. The technology will also be in place during Fetterman’s only debate with Oz later this month.
When Fetterman was pushed on not releasing more medical records and asked for proof from a doctor that he can “do the job,” the Democrat said that is how he views the June letter.
“I chose to run, you know, with two different, for two very different reasons. One, that’s my team of doctors all believe you’re good to go. But even more importantly, my family, my other team, was agreed to do this as well too,” Fetterman said, admitting later that his recovery is “made even more difficult” by the fact he is doing it in public.
“If they don’t think I’m well enough, you know, they certainly wouldn’t have allowed me to want to continue,” said Fetterman. “And if I don’t believe I was healthy enough, I certainly wouldn’t be putting up on this, you know, walking, you know, live without a net.”
Oz, who released his own detailed medical records, has been calling on Fetterman to do the same, including shortly after the Democrat’s interview.
“On NBC news, John Fetterman refused to release his medical records 12 separate times. Now, during discussions with PennLive’s editorial board, John Fetterman refused three more times to release his medical records,” said Rachel Tripp, an Oz spokesperson. “For those counting at home, that makes fifteen times to explain why he has not produced his medical records. 15 refusals in one day! What is John Fetterman hiding?”
Throughout the session, however, Fetterman used the fact that Oz declined to sit down for the editorial board interview as proof that he has “courage to know I am going to miss some words” but still chooses to show up. Fetterman said there was likely Republican operatives watching the interview “gleefully waiting for me to miss words and then put that on blast. But I showed up.”