The GOP indirectly targets Fetterman’s health in the Pennsylvania Senate race

Greetings are over. Now Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman’s stroke is officially a campaign issue in the swinging state US Senate race.

But instead of directly criticizing Fetterman for his health, Republicans are taking a different approach: criticizing the Democrat for not being more transparent about the stroke that hospitalized him four days before he easily won the May 17 primary.

Fetterman’s campaign waited two days to reveal his hospitalization, released a statement that confused cardiologists and later acknowledged that he had a previously unknown heart condition that led doctors to install a pacemaker with a defibrillator last month. . He was released from the hospital several days after the election.

On Thursday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, or NRSC, released a web ad featuring news coverage from experts and reporters discussing the Fetterman campaign’s evolving explanations of his health and hospitalization, asking, “John Fetterman has trouble saying the truth?”

The announcement, from the Republican electoral arm of the Senate, was a stark departure from recent comments by Fetterman’s opponent, famed TV doctor Mehmet Oz, who she loved him when he was first hospitalized.

It’s also the first time Fetterman’s health has been raised, albeit indirectly, by Republicans, who plan a pay-TV media purchase to tarnish the brand of a Democrat who has built a reputation as a heterosexual speaker, according to an NRSC consultant. that he was not authorized to publicly discuss the campaign strategy. The consultant said the NRSC also intends to target Fetterman over how he discussed a 2013 incident when he pointed a gun at a black man suspected of criminal acts.

The Pennsylvania Democrats, meanwhile, have expressed concern about how the Fetterman campaign handled both the stroke and the discussion about the gun incident. But a spokesperson for the lieutenant governor said criticism of the GOP will not work with voters.

“Pennsylvania voters know and trust John Fetterman. Who they don’t trust is Mehmet Oz, who is a con artist and con artist who isn’t even from Pennsylvania and doesn’t know Pennsylvania, “said Fetterman spokesperson Joe Calvello, referring obliquely to a web attack by the Committee on Democratic senatorial campaign in Oz, whose campaign he would not comment on.

Fetterman’s wife, Gisele Fetterman, insisted in an interview on NBC News that aired Wednesday that her family and campaign were open about her condition as they were just trying to “navigate these very personal and difficult things in a way. very public “.

“We did a great job on transparency,” he said.

On election day, Gisele Fetterman suggested her husband’s condition wasn’t that bad, calling the stroke “a little hiccup.” She said he would be “back on his feet in no time”. But Fetterman stayed in the hospital for nine days and her campaign says she’s still resting and may not be back on the trail until July.

It was only last Friday that Fetterman, in a statement released by his doctor, revealed that he was diagnosed in 2017 with “atrial fibrillation, irregular heart rhythm, along with a decrease in heart pump.”

Fetterman, who is 6-foot-8 and weighed 418 pounds at the time of his diagnosis when he was Mayor of Braddock, quickly went on a diet after diagnosis and a year later touted his new healthy lifestyle, recounting in Pittsburgh. Tribune-Review had lost 148 lbs. He didn’t mention his heart problem in that interview, nor was he taking his heart medications or seeing his doctor at the time.

“He probably thought to himself, ‘I lost 150 pounds. I’m running. I’m healthy now. I don’t need to tell anyone, see my doctor or take my medications. ‘ Well, that was stupid. Now he has a pacemaker and people ask questions, “said Neil Oxman, a Pennsylvania Democrat strategist.

Oxman said the Republican attack on Fetterman’s transparency was the only way to deal with his health without sounding cruel. But he said he would have limited relevance to voters because of the timing and because Fetterman is expected to return to the election campaign.

“If it’s up and running in three weeks, no one will care,” Oxman said.

Republican adviser Charlie Gerow, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in last month’s GOP primary, agreed with Oxman that the attack “is not a game changer,” saying Fetterman will be more bogged down by the budget of the country. inflation and other headwinds Democrats will face mid-term elections.

But Gerow said that in a tightly divided oscillating state, everything matters.

“When candidates don’t speak out, it doesn’t work well,” Gerow said.

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