Fetterman Versus Oz: Pennsylvania Senate Nominees Finally Nail Down Time And Place For Debate
Roy Rochlin and Nate Smallwood via Getty Images

After weeks of negotiations, Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman agreed to a debate with his Republican rival, celebrity cardiologist Dr. Mehmet Oz.

The two candidates will debate live for one hour on Tuesday, October 25, at 8:00 p.m. in what will likely be the only scheduled face-to-face encounter ahead of Election Day on November 8. Nexstar stations across the commonwealth will broadcast the debate, according to a press release from the company, which anticipates nine million viewers.

Fetterman, who has stuttered and lost his train of thought in multiple public appearances after suffering a stroke days before the Democratic primary, had promised to debate Oz “sometime in the middle to end of October” on a “major television station” in Pennsylvania. His campaign had been considering using a closed captioning monitor so that he does not miss details, which Oz had expressed interest in accepting as long as the accommodation was made clear to viewers.

“I have every ability to talk about all of these issues and have a full debate,” Fetterman said in early September. “And that’s really just the one lingering issue of the stroke — that some of my hearing was damaged a little bit, but it’s continuing to get better and better and better every day.”

Oz had repeatedly grilled his rival on delays in the debate negotiations.

“We keep hearing that the Fetterman campaign is in debate talks with networks,” the television veteran commented on social media last month. “What networks? He won’t say. What terms? He won’t say. John Fetterman sure has a lot of people speaking for him, but does very little speaking himself.”

The debate approaches as Oz reduces the gap between himself and Fetterman in the polls. According to a recent survey from Emerson College and The Hill, the former candidate boasts 43% support from the voting population while the latter boasts 45% — a difference within the survey’s margin of error, placing Oz in a statistical tie after months of lagging his rival.

NBC News reporter Dasha Burns revealed that Fetterman struggled to understand their conversation ahead of a recent sit-down interview, during which he responded to oral questions after reading captions on a computer screen. Even with the equipment, Fetterman at times stuttered and had trouble finding words.

Fetterman, who served as the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a declining steel town near Pittsburgh, was cleared by a doctor this summer to run for Senate. When pressed by NBC News on why he has not shared his medical records publicly, Fetterman said that his memory and cognitive function were not affected by the stroke.

“I feel like we have been very transparent in a lot of different ways,” Fetterman commented. “When our doctor has already given a letter saying that I’m able to serve and to be running. And then I think there’s — you can’t be any more transparent than standing up on a stage with 3,000 people and having a speech without a teleprompter and just being — and putting everything and yourself out there like that. I think that’s as transparent as everyone in Pennsylvania can see.”

Fetterman has nevertheless asserted that his condition is only temporary.

“Recovering from a stroke in public isn’t easy,” he said on Wednesday. “But in January, I’m going to be much better — and Dr. Oz will still be a fraud.”

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