U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman, a Democrat running in Pennsylvania, conducted an in-person interview that aired this week with the help of a giant computer screen that translated what the interviewer was saying to him.
The interview, which was taped on Friday, comes as polls have shown the race between Fetterman and Republican challenger Dr. Mehmet Oz tightening in recent weeks over issues ranging from Fetterman’s health, to his soft stances on crime, to questions about his authenticity, as critics say that the blue-collar image that he portrays is phony.
Fetterman has also not yet debated Oz despite significant pressure to do so, even from the political Left, as early voting in the state has already begun.
The interviewer, NBC News’s Dasha Burns, wrote in a report that Fetterman struggled to speak and “had trouble finding words.”
“We had a monitor set up so that he could read my questions because he still has lingering auditory processing issues as a result of the stroke, which means he has a hard time understanding what he’s hearing,” Burns said during a television broadcast. “Now, once he reads the question he’s able to understand, you’ll hear he also still has some problems, some challenges with speech.”
“Just in some of the small talk prior to the interview, before the closed captioning was up and running, it did seem that he had a hard time understanding our conversation,” she continued. “I’ve spoken with stroke experts, they say folks can fully recover from that, but the caveat that every expert gives is that they can’t fully assess a patient without details on their health records, without that information that the campaign has yet to disclose. We’ve asked multiple times for medical records, we’ve asked for interviews with someone from his medical team, those requests have so far been denied to NBC News and other outlets that have requested this as well.”
John Fetterman sat down with NBC News for an interview tonight. He had to used closed captioning during the interview, the reporter says he had trouble speaking in the "small talk" before the captioning was on, and Fetterman's team is refusing to give them his medical records. pic.twitter.com/Y6tDhYMEPB
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) October 11, 2022
Burns responded to left-of-center reporters who criticized the interview by saying Wednesday morning on NBC’s “Today” that, according to Fetterman’s campaign, “Our team was the first to be in the room with Fetterman for an interview rather than via remote video conference.”
Online, critics and pundits made note of how serious Fetterman’s condition is and how the media had already rapidly changed the narrative around him.
“Look at Fetterman glancing over at his computer to read the reporter’s Qs he can’t process audibly and then get the answers,” said Steven Law, CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund. “This guy’s in bad shape.”
David Harsanyi, senior editor at The Federalist, wrote: “It went from ‘there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Fetterman’ to ‘how dare you attack the disabled’ in a few hours. It’s amazing how quickly a talking point coalesces.”
“He’s not ‘disabled,’ he has an ailment. It’s impaired his cognitive abilities. If the guy was in a coma, dems would still come up with some bs reason to vote for him, b/c, just like republicans, they care a lot more about winning than the competency of candidates,” he continued. “In many ways, Fetterman’s stroke has actually help divert attention from his incompetence and fringe positions. He’s basically been in hiding for months.”