HARRISBURG, PA. (TND) — Discussions about the health of Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman were front and center following Tuesday night's debate with fellow contender Mehmet Oz.
Following his stroke in May, which sidelined Fetterman from the campaign trail for approximately two months, questions regarding his health have been a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats.
But, after Tuesday night's debate, the argument that Fetterman has fully recovered from his stroke and is fit to serve was dealt a massive blow, according to critics.
It's sad to see John Fetterman struggling so much. He should take more time to allow himself to fully recover," tweeted Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, R, following Fetterman's performance Tuesday night.
This is awful. Shame on Fetterman’s entire team & family for pushing him through this race," tweeted radio host and former congressional candidate Kim Klacik. "Let this man go home & get some rest. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything."
Fetterman made numerous missteps Tuesday night, including opening the debate with "Hi, goodnight everybody."
Other missteps included additional perceivably incoherent comments and an apparent inability to contend with questions regarding his past positions.
I do want to clarify something – you're saying tonight that you support fracking, that you've always supported fracking, but there is that 2018 interview that you said, 'I don't support fracking at all.' So, how do you square the two?" Fetterman was asked.
Following a long pause, Fetterman responded:
I do support fracking and... I don't, I don't...I support fracking, and I stand, and I do support fracking," Fetterman said.
After the debate, the Fetterman campaign alleged that the closed captioning system used during the debate to assist Fetterman was "filled with errors," implying that was what caused the Senate candidate's missteps.
We are thrilled with John’s performance. He did remarkably well tonight – especially when you consider that he’s still recovering from a stroke and was working off of delayed captions filled with errors," Fetterman's communications director Joe Calvello said, according to NewsNation. “John won countless exchanges, counter-punched aggressively, and pushed back on Oz’s cruelty and attacks."
However, Nexstar, NewsNation's parent company which helped organize the debate, challenged Calvello's allegations in a statement.
Both candidates agreed to the technical set-up for the closed captioning process weeks ago, which was implemented at the request of the Fetterman campaign," the company said in its statement. "In fact, Nexstar's production team went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the effectiveness of the closed captioning process, and to accommodate several last-minute requests of the Fetterman campaign."
Leigh Richardson, founder and clinical director of The Brain Performance Center, which offers cutting-edge approaches to neurological issues, told The National Desk (TND) that she thinks Fetterman is fit to serve despite Tuesday night's performance.
One important thing that we should all note, who was he speaking against? Dr. Oz, who's a TV star that is quite accomplished in front of a camera, quite accomplished and comfortable in a TV environment. I think that's something that we all have to stop and consider," Richardson said. "Did Fetterman stumble on some words, yes he did. Have you due to lack of sleep gotten up and found yourself stumbling on your words, or having a little bit of trouble with word recall? I have."
Richardson told TND there were a litany of factors that could have caused Fetterman's missteps, such as poor sleep the night beforehand, sensory overload from all the lights and sounds of the debate or lingering emotional trauma from the stroke. However, she added that Fetterman's stumbling over his words was likely caused by one of the most common persisting side effects of a stroke, aphasia.
I think there was a lot more going on, on a subconscious level, when he walked up on that stage," Richardson said. "Every second your brain is capable of taking in 11 million bits of data. Research says, anywhere from 40 to 126 will go in the conscious level, the rest of it goes in your subconscious level. So what [Fetterman's] brain was reacting to and was responding to was as much what was going on a subconscious level as it was a conscious level."
Ultimately, Richardson concluded that if Fetterman's doctor approved him as fit to run for office, then that recommendation should be heeded.