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Stroke-Affected Fetterman Engages Oz in a Controversial Senate Debate

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic contender for Senate in Pennsylvania, fought with Dr. Mehmet Oz in their one and only debate on Tuesday, differing starkly on abortion, the economy, and other political topics as Mr. Fetterman sought to reassure voters of his fitness to serve.

The two guys at red and blue lecterns in a Harrisburg, Pa. television studio could barely hide their dislike for one other or the extent of their disputes. Dr. Oz consistently raised crime as a moderate candidate. Mr. Fetterman criticized Dr. Oz as a rich outsider unaware of Pennsylvanians’ economic concerns.

Due to Mr. Fetterman’s stroke and recovery, the discussion was unusually significant. Unusual conditions surrounded the argument. Two 70-inch monitors above the moderators displayed questions and replies in real-time. As an accommodation for Mr. Fetterman, who has publicly addressed his post-stroke auditory processing challenges, professional typists attempted transcribing the argument.

The frequent pauses in Mr. Fetterman’s speech made it clear when he was reading or searching for a word or phrase. However, over an hour, he could also articulate his Democratic vision for a state whose control of the Senate may be decisive.

Republican nominee Dr. Oz, a television industry veteran, spoke with the aplomb and confidence from having spent their whole careers in the spotlight. And from the very beginning, he took advantage of the opportunity to position himself in the political middle, portraying himself as a problem-solving surgeon and consistently painting Mr. Fetterman as an extremist.

Former President Donald J. Trump was a significant factor in Dr. Oz’s victory in the Republican primary, which he won by promising to bring “civility, balance” to Washington.

During the primaries, Dr. Oz supported Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” plan in its entirety. However, he has changed his pitch for the general election, stating that he wants “civility to return to Washington” and is the “candidate for change.” The man did admit that he would vote for Trump in 2024.

It was not always confident that a discussion would occur.

The Oz team had mocked Mr. Fetterman throughout the summer for failing to commit to any debates, but the spotlight on his health appeared to have backfired. Late in October, the Fetterman team agreed to a single discussion to give the lieutenant governor as much time as possible to recover.


On the Friday before the primary election in May, Mr. Fetterman suffered a stroke, but he didn’t come clean about it until the following Sunday. He had a pacemaker and defibrillator placed on Primary Day. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in early June, but his campaign initially provided little specifics about his illness.

Until mid-August, Mr. Fetterman refrained from campaigning. Since then, he has increased his involvement, frequently hosting rallies and conducting media interviews. The primary care physician who oversees his health treatment said that he faces “no work limitations and may perform full time in public office,” and he made that letter public before the debate.

Moderators pressured Mr. Fetterman to reveal his complete medical information. He refused. “Transparency to me is showing up,” he remarked.