Gisele Fetterman, the wife of Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, blasted NBC News on Monday for raising questions about her husband’s health.
During an interview with NBC News reporter Dasha Burns last week, Fetterman used a large computer screen to aid with closed captioning because of auditory processing issues induced by the stroke he suffered earlier this year. Burns wrote in her report that Fetterman struggled to speak and “had trouble finding words.”
In the aftermath of the interview, many left-leaning reporters began criticizing Burns, forcing the journalist to defend her network’s choice to raise questions about Fetterman’s health. Gisele Fetterman said in comments made to The Independent that Burns was “ableist” for noting that her husband has not released his medical records or provided a meaningful update on his recovery.
“If this happened in a school, if this was a child that was ableist towards another child or a teacher, there would’ve been issues stated. There would have been new training done,” she told the outlet. “What is being done at the media after a reporter came out so openly ableist towards a person? I think shocked and appalled, but sadly not surprised. I know there’s still so much to do, but it would be great to see some accountability, to actually see real change.”
Fetterman, whose stroke occurred days before the primary election and required him to receive a pacemaker, was absent from the campaign trail for much of the summer as he recovered. Several of his public appearances have since been marked by slurred speech and stuttering. According to a poll released earlier this month, roughly 34% of voters in Pennsylvania are “extremely or very worried” that the nominee’s health would render him unable to complete his duties in the Senate — an 11% increase from three months ago.
“And I would love to see an apology towards the disability community from her and from her network for the damage they have caused,” Gisele Fetterman continued. “We have received so many messages from folks who said, ‘This is exactly why I’m afraid to seek accommodations. This is exactly why I’m afraid to pursue a different position because of exactly what your husband has gone through.’ So I think he’s shown what he’s experienced, but a lot of people saw themselves in him.”
Republican Senate nominee and celebrity cardiologist Dr. Mehmet Oz, despite trailing his opponent for most of the general election contest, is now statistically tied to clinch the open Senate seat, leading both major parties to pour millions of dollars into the race. After promising to debate Oz “sometime in the middle to end of October” on a “major television station” in Pennsylvania, the Fetterman campaign has committed to an hour-long debate on October 25.
Despite criticism from his rival and concern from voters, Fetterman told Burns that his willingness to speak in front of live audiences is sufficient for voters to decide whether he has truly recovered from the stroke. “I feel like we have been very transparent in a lot of different ways,” he commented. “I think that’s as transparent as everyone in Pennsylvania can see.”