Fetterman agrees to 1 debate against Oz in Pa. Senate race

Pa. Lt. Gov. and senatorial candidate John Fetterman speaks to a crowd gathered at a United Steel Workers of America Labor Day event with President Joe Biden in West Mifflin, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh, Monday Sept. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke)

Pa. Lt. Gov. and senatorial candidate John Fetterman speaks to a crowd gathered at a United Steel Workers of America Labor Day event with President Joe Biden in West Mifflin, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh, Monday Sept. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke)

Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman of Pennsylvania will participate in just one debate, his campaign said Wednesday, after weeks of his Republican rival, Dr. Mehmet Oz, pressuring Fetterman and aggressively questioning the severity of his lingering health problems from a stroke.

Fetterman’s campaign said he will participate in a televised debate in mid- to late October. The campaign gave no other details, including why he would agree to just one debate. Oz’s campaign immediately dubbed it a “secret debate,” with no details on when or where.

Politico was first to report that Fetterman had agreed to one debate.

As the general election grows closer, Oz, a celebrity heart surgeon and political novice, has begun stepping up his questioning of Fetterman’s fitness for office after he suffered the stroke in May. Fetterman’s campaign has said Oz was operating in bad faith by insisting on debates and said his motivations were really “about mocking John for having a stroke.”

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Read the full statement released by Fetterman’s campaign:

Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, and Oz are vying to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in a race Democrats see as one of their best chances nationally to flip a Republican-held seat. The winner in the battleground state could help decide the chamber’s partisan control next year.

Oz, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has accused Fetterman of lying about the seriousness of his stroke. Fetterman has said that he almost died after suffering the stroke just days before the Democratic primary.

Fetterman’s campaign had previously said he was willing to debate but wants a debate that can accommodate the lingering effects of his stroke, in particular his diminished auditory processing speed — he cannot always respond quickly to what he’s hearing. In brief public speaking events, Fetterman also has struggled to speak fluidly.

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It was not immediately clear what accommodations Fetterman would be looking for in his debate appearance, but has used closed-captioning in video interviews with reporters.

We will debate sometime in the middle to end of October – as each of the past two Pennsylvania Senate races have – on a major television station to reach voters across the Commonwealth. We are still finalizing the details.

There is literally zero precedent in modern times for having U.S. Senate debates in Pennsylvania in early September. That was never going to happen. All of these debates have always occurred in the middle to late October.

But let’s be clear this has never really been about debates for Dr. Oz. This whole thing has been about Dr. Oz and his team mocking me for having a stroke because they’ve got nothing else.”

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