After Suffering a Stroke, Fetterman engages Oz in a Contentious Senate Debate

To reassure voters, Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman made many claims about his qualifications. Former celebrity doctor and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz criticized him for being too extreme for the position.

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the Senate in Pennsylvania, and Dr. Mehmet Oz squared off in their only debate on Tuesday, with the two sharply disagreeing on abortion, the economy, and other partisan issues as Mr. Fetterman tried to reassure voters of his fitness to serve five months after a stroke nearly took his life.

Both men’s animosity for one another and the depth of their arguments were plain to see as they stood at their respective red and blue lecterns in the television studio in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Dr. Oz, who was attempting to present himself as a moderate, kept coming back to the topic of crime.

Mr. Fetterman attacked Dr. Oz as a rich foreigner who doesn’t understand the plight of Pennsylvanians financially. With Mr. Fetterman’s stroke and subsequent rapid recovery, the sight of the discussion itself took on unusual importance. The problem was one Mr. Fetterman wanted to tackle from the get-go.

As he began his opening statement, he addressed the obvious: “Let’s also speak about the elephant in the room: I had a stroke.” All in all, it was a really peculiar setting for the argument. Two 70-inch monitors were placed directly above the moderators to display the questions and responses in near real-time.

As part of the agreed-upon accommodation for Mr. Fetterman, who has publicly addressed his continued auditory processing challenges after the stroke, professional typists were present to attempt to transcribe the argument. Mr. Fetterman’s speech would regularly pause as he struggled to read or reach for a phrase or word.

Nonetheless, he spoke the language well enough to lay out the Democratic party’s platform for a state whose senatorial control is up for grabs. Republican contender and former TV host Dr. Oz spoke with the aplomb and confidence that come from years of experience in front of the camera.

And right from the start, he took advantage of the opportunity to position himself in the political middle, portraying himself as a problem-solving physician and consistently characterizing Mr. Fetterman as an extremist. Dr. Oz, who was able to win the Republican primary thanks in large part to the support of former President Donald J. Trump, has declared that he wants to restore “civility, balance” to Washington.

Dr. Oz supported Donald Trump in the primaries and was a strong advocate of his “Make America Great Again” campaign. For the general election, however, he has changed his message, declaring that he is the “candidate for change” and that he wants “Washington to be civil again.” Nonetheless, he did add that he will vote for Trump in 2024.

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