As we previously reported, even some members of the mainstream media have gotten fed up with the evasive tactics the campaign of Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman has been using to dodge and weave around reporters’ questions regarding his health, four months after he suffered a stroke.
“Mr. Fetterman is asking voters for a six-year contract without giving them enough information to make sound judgments about whether he’s up for such a demanding job,” the Washington Post editorial board wrote Monday. “We have called for full disclosure of health records from candidates for federal office in both parties… and we believe Mr. Fetterman should release his medical records for independent review.”
A week prior to that, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was saying the same thing. “Voters have a right to know whether their prospective senator can do the job — including handling the give-and-take of a vigorous debate,” they observed.
Now, the New York Times has gotten in on the action. And though the piece they wrote was far more sympathetic to Fetterman than the WaPo and the Post-Gazette, they nevertheless inadvertently pointed out the biggest problem with his campaign (outside of his stances on the issues). Note how early on, Fetterman told the paper he’s been an open book regarding his physical condition. And yet later on in the piece, we learn his campaign didn’t allow his doctors to be available for media interviews:
In Tuesday’s interview, Mr. Fetterman said, “We have never been hiding any of the health issues.”
Mr. Fetterman’s campaign did not make his doctors available for interviews, and efforts to reach them independently were unsuccessful. Dr. Ramesh Chandra of Alliance Cardiology signed the June letter about Mr. Fetterman’s heart condition. Dr. Chandra’s office said health privacy laws prohibited him from discussing patients without their permission.
This is the big problem in a nutshell, and it goes beyond his Senate campaign to how he and his staff would handle requests for information about his health once he took office in the event that he won the race. As others in the press have pointed out, serving in the public office, especially the United States Senate, is not an easy job. It requires someone who can handle the daily rigors with no problems, and that includes responding to media inquiries and making yourself available for committee hearings, as well as questions from both the media and your constituency at a moment’s notice.
Suffering from something as debilitating as a stroke is unquestionably challenging to deal with, especially when you’re in the middle of a political campaign and you’re obligated to make your case to voters ahead of Election Day. But as we get closer to November, the race between Fetterman and Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz is tightening, an indication that the Oz strategy of questioning his ability to serve and pushing back on Fetterman’s “carpetbagger” claims might be working.
Not only that, but Fetterman’s caginess on debates and when he and Oz will have them (late October?) is more than a little off-putting, and could be leading some fence-sitters to conclude that maybe he’s really not up to the task after all.
In any event, the media push for Fetterman to be more transparent about his health and raising questions in the process is a surprisingly welcome development in a race where they’ve spent most of their time trying to help him out by dunking on Oz. It remains to be seen, however, if their push leads to some actual forthrightness from the Fetterman campaign.
As always, stay tuned.