Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) blamed his recent hospitalization on the “brutality” of his 2022 Senate campaign.
In an interview with Pittsburgh CBS affiliate KDKA, Fetterman said he is doing better, after he checked himself into Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., in February. Fetterman was diagnosed with depression and spent six weeks in treatment at Walter Reed. In the interview, the freshman senator blamed his depression on his May 2022 stroke, but also on Republicans during the campaign.
“It was after the brutality of the campaign, the other side,” Fetterman said. “Some people believe it was one of the most vicious political campaigns.” However, Fetterman did not put any of the blame on his opponent, celebrity heart surgeon and television presenter Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Fetterman’s health was a major concern of the campaign. He suffered a massive stroke in May that sidelined him from campaigning for months. The stroke was thrust into the spotlight in particular after an NBC News report in October revealed that Fetterman needed a giant computer screen with closed captions in order to understand what the reporter was saying. Fetterman also reportedly struggled to find the right words in the interview. The impact was also apparent during Fetterman’s lone debate with Dr. Oz; Fetterman struggled to find words and gave several incoherent and incomplete answers to questions.
Fetterman said that his mental health was preventing him from being an effective Senator, husband, and father. “I wasn’t being the kind of senator Pennsylvania deserved,” he said. “I wasn’t being the kind of husband Gisele deserved, I wasn’t being the kind of father my children deserved.”
But Fetterman said this week that he is in better shape. “I feel fantastic, honestly,” he said. “A lot of people have been asking, ‘Hey, how are you feeling, how’s your depression?’ It’s in remission, and I am just so grateful to [be] just feeling great.”
KDKA’s Jon Delano then presented the burning question directly. “Is John Fetterman really fit, mentally and physically, to be a United States senator?” he asked.
“That certainly is very blunt, but my answer will be blunt, too,” Fetterman replied. “Hell yes, and that’s why I’m doing it. Just the way any Pennsylvanians are working, you take it a day and a day and work hard, and that’s exactly what I am doing here.”
Fetterman was released from Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., on March 31. After being discharged, he returned home to Pennsylvania to continue his recovery, and returned to work on April 17, when the Senate returned from recess.
According to a statement from Dr. David Williamson, chief of neuropsychiatry and medical director of Walter Reed, Fetterman was admitted on February 15 with severe symptoms of depression, including low energy and motivation, minimal speech, poor sleep, slowed thinking, slowed movement, and feelings of guilt and worthlessness. Fortunately, Fetterman did not show signs of suicidal ideation. But his symptoms had progressively worsened over a period of eight weeks; Fetterman stopped eating and drinking, causing low blood pressure and possibly hurting blood flow to his brain.
Fetterman’s low blood pressure was attributed to poor hydration and weight loss. The Cardiology team adjusted his medications while his depression was handled with medication therapy. Fetterman’s mood steadily improved over the following weeks, the statement continued. He slept better, ate well, and hydrated, and he seemed happier and more motivated, and his attitude and engagement with others also improved. The report concluded that his depression went into remission because of the treatment. Fetterman committed to long-term treatment for depression, the report said.