Mallinson said he believes there will be more scrutiny on Fetterman’s performance than Oz’s at their upcoming Oct. 25 debate given the recent attention on the health of the Democrat, who has been recovering from a near-fatal stroke in May.
Fetterman will require a live transcription service during the debate to assist with ongoing auditory processing issues that he is experiencing during his recovery — something that was on display during a controversial on-camera interview last week. That NBC News sit-down drew the ire of advocates for people with permanent or temporary disabilities because of what they criticized as too much focus on the accommodation Fetterman required. Gisele Fetterman, the candidate’s wife, also called on NBC to apologize for the “ableist” reporting.
Republicans have seized on Fetterman’s health and verbal stumbles to question whether he is fit to serve, while Oz himself mocked the Democrat’s months at home in recovery with a so-called basement tracker.
“I think the Oz campaign didn’t help themselves by being flat-out mean with Fetterman over the summer, and the comments about how he should have eaten vegetables continue to circulate as people criticize the media and Oz’s characterization of Fetterman’s recovery,” Mallinson said.
Fetterman has tried to frame his recovery as something relatable, releasing a spot last week that called for making it easier to access healthcare and spending “more time with those we love,” as he had been able to do as he recovered.
In June, Fetterman released a letter from his cardiologist, who stated that if the candidate took his recovery seriously, he would be able to campaign and serve without problems. However, the campaign has not released further information since then or made his doctors available for interview.
Campaign representatives have said that his doctors expect his “lingering auditory processing issue” will eventually subside. This week, the Washington Post also spoke with four neurologists, who told the newspaper that the candidate appeared to be recovering well.
While Fetterman will likely be under more scrutiny at the Oct. 25 debate, Mallinson said the pressure also remains for Oz.
“It’s too much to expect one debate to carry that load, but I think both candidates really need a decent performance,” Mallinson said. “What that means looks different for each though. Oz on substance, Fetterman on not getting frustrated with his limitations and allowing them to be part of his performance.”