An NBC News interview they said was done on Friday and first shown on the network Tuesday, shows Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in a way we’ve seen him in other interviews done over the internet in recent weeks about his U.S. Senate campaign following a stroke he suffered in May, using close captioning to understand what’s being said fully and the occasional stutter caused by what he and his campaign has called “auditory processing” issues that have lingered since then.
But other aspects of the conversation and story are raising more concerns about the frontrunning Democrat’s health with 27 days to go until Election Day.
Fetterman insisted that the lingering issues still affecting him, will not be an impediment should he win against Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz. But NBC News wrote about the more than 32-minute interview with their correspondent Dasha Burns that, “(Fetterman) still struggles to understand what he hears and to speak clearly.”
“I don’t think it’s going to have an impact,” said Fetterman. “Our doctors are saying that we’re fit to do it and I’ve demonstrated my abilities and where I’m at and I’m leaving people up to that choice.”
NBC News agreed to allow Fetterman to use the closed captioning device he had admitted to using in other video conference interviews, but Burns said on NBC Nightly News Tuesday night that conversations without the computer assistance were different.
“In small talk before the interview, without captioning, it was not clear he was understanding our conversation,” Burns said at the opening of the story.
Oz has used the issue in recent weeks to help narrow a double-digit poll deficit into a toss-up, questioning why Fetterman has not released more of his medical records. It’s something Burns pushed for in their interview without success.
Fetterman said he’s not aware of any undisclosed symptoms and argued that he has been open with the public about his health and recovery, including the auditory processing challenges.
“Recovering from a stroke in public isn’t easy,” Fetterman said on Twitter Wednesday.
While journalists are now asking more questions and conservatives have seized on the interview and the discussion about his mental fitness, others pushed back in the hours after the interview began airing, accusing critics of focusing on ableism and adding that the records Fetterman has released show his cognitive function and memory are unaffected.
Others who have interviewed Fetterman over videoconferencing, including Stephanie Ruhle who works with Burns at NBC News, also pushed back on her characterizations that Fetterman couldn’t understand their small talk.
Burns responded to that criticism Wednesday Morning on Today saying that while it’s fair their experiences may have been different; those interviews were done over video conference whereas the campaign confirmed to her this was the first time a reporter interviewed him in-person.
Fetterman and his team insist the other issues in the race will ultimately make the difference in the closely watched race.
“By January, I’m going to be much better and Dr. Oz is still going to be a fraud,”