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John Fetterman Agrees to Debate Dr. Mehmet Oz in October

The lieutenant governor's health has become a major issue in the Senate race

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has agreed to take part in an October debate with Dr. Mehmet Oz as part of their ongoing campaign for the United States Senate. 

The Democrat who suffered a stroke earlier this year publicly declined in late August to commit to a September debate proposed by the Oz campaign. At the time, Fetterman said the accommodations offered by his Republican opponent were insulting and that he would be willing to have “a real conversation on this once Dr. Oz and his team are ready to take this seriously.”

Fetterman has now committed to taking part in one debate sometime in mid- to late October.

“We’re absolutely going to debate Dr. Oz, and that was really always our intent to do that,” he told Politico on Sept. 7. “It was just simply only ever been about addressing some of the lingering issues of the stroke, the auditory processing, and we’re going to be able to work that out.”

He did not give specific details other than to say the debate would be hosted by a “major television station” in Pennsylvania and that he considered using a closed captioning monitor to be sure he does not miss any words.

“I have every ability to talk about all of these issues and have a full debate,” Fetterman said. “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.”

Two days after he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized, Fetterman won the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary. 

The former mayor of Braddock — a suburb of Pittsburgh — is a progressive who has promised a labor-focused agenda if elected to Washington,” reports The New York Post.

President Joe Biden celebrated Fetterman’s win on Twitter, describing the 6-foot-8 candidate as a “strong nominee” who “understands that working class families in Pennsylvania … have been dealt out for far too long.”

“Democrats are united around John,” Biden wrote.

Fetterman made his first in-person campaign appearance since his stroke in late August following weeks of virtual participation.

During his interview with Politico, Fetterman reiterated that he believes Oz has used his medical crisis for political gain by “trying to capitalize on the fact that I’m having a stroke.” 

“I also want to point out that there is literally zero precedent about having debates in Pennsylvania, or really any state for as far as I know, at Labor Day,” he said. “All of these debates have always occurred in the middle to late October.”

Pennsylvania, a battleground state, has held debates for Senate races since 2016. 

Oz, a doctor who gained fame as a television personality, had proposed five debates. While speaking with the media, Oz has suggested that Fetterman is reluctant to debate either because he is in too poor of health or because he cannot defend his positions to voters. 

“John Fetterman has been ducking, dodging these debates, which is insulting to the voters of Pennsylvania,” Oz told Fox News Digital. “Either he’s healthy, which he says he is, and doesn’t want to answer for his radical positions in past statements, or he’s lying about his health. Either way, the voters of Pennsylvania deserve an answer, and I think they deserve that answer pretty quickly, since the absentee ballots will be mailed out in the next two to three weeks.”

Both Oz and Fetterman are seeking to fill the seat currently held by Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is retiring at the end of his current term. Toomey, who endorsed Oz, has also said Fetterman’s health is now an important election issue.

“In addition to the character problem of being dishonest, if he’s really not able to debate, then there’s a big problem,” Toomey said to NBC News. “As someone who served in the United States Senate for almost 12 years now, I have a really good understanding of how the place works. If John Fetterman were elected to the Senate, and he’s not able to communicate effectively, if he’s not able to engage with the press, if he’s not able to engage with his colleagues, he will not be able to do the job.”

Recent polls indicate Fetterman currently leads Oz — 49% to 44%.

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