Citing his health and a recent stroke, Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is now refusing to debate Republican challenger Dr. Mehmet Oz despite promising "several" debates in a Twitter post this February.
"We are working to figure out what a fair debate would look like with the lingering impacts of the auditory processing in mind," Fetterman campaign strategist Rebecca Katz told The Washington Post Wednesday. "To be absolutely clear, the occasional issues he is having with auditory processing have no bearing on his ability to do the job as senator. John is healthy and fully capable of showing up and doing the work."
Fetterman, the state's lieutenant governor under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, won the Democratic primary in the state in May shortly after suffering a stroke, and returned to the campaign trail in August, The New York Times reported Aug. 31.
In February, the candidate promised on Twitter to be part of "no fewer than three" debates.
"Like I've always said: Debates are an important part of this primary," his tweet said. "We believe voters deserve no fewer than three network televised debates — including all candidates who make the ballot — before major media markets across Pennsylvania."
Oz's campaign put out a statement offering concessions for a debate scheduled for next week that included a promise to "not hurt his feelings," "allow John to have all of his notes in front of him along with an earpiece so he can have the answers given to him by his staff, in real time, John Fetterman can raise his hand and say 'bathroom break,'" "allow extra time for him to explain that second-degree murder is 'not as bad as' first-degree murder" and "pay for any additional medical personnel he might need to have on standby."
"The first debate at KDKA is set for one week from today ... but there’s been no response from lying liberal Fetterman," Oz Campaign Communications Director Brittany Yanick said in the statement. "I mean, if I had to defend releasing convicted murderers and not paying my taxes 67 times, I'd be pretty worried too. I guess John Fetterman is afraid of debating Doctor Oz."
Fetterman told The Times Tuesday that he would not be participating in any debates during September but said he would still be meeting with voters in the state.
"As I recover from this stroke and improve my auditory processing and speech, I look forward to continuing to meet with the people of Pennsylvania," Fetterman said in a statement to The Times.
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