Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat, will be allowed to use a closed-captioning device during his Tuesday debate with Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, according to a memo from the campaign on Monday.
Fetterman’s campaign demanded the accommodation to assist the candidate with his “auditory processing disorder” that resulted from a stroke he had earlier this year.
“This debate is unprecedented — there’s never been a closed-captioned political debate in a high-profile Senate race where one of the candidates is dealing with a lingering auditory processing challenge while recovering from a stroke,” Fetterman adviser Rebecca Katz and campaign manager Brendan McPhillips stated in the memo. “John has had a remarkable recovery, but the ongoing auditory processing challenges are real. The campaign insisted on closed captioning technology because it’s necessary.”
Fetterman’s team went on to try to lower expectations for the debate — warning that his opponent, who is a former TV show host, will likely outperform Fetterman during the event.
“We’ll admit — this isn’t John’s format. Look no further than the debates from the primary earlier this year,” the memo stated, adding that “Oz clearly comes into Tuesday night with a huge built-in advantage.”
The campaign team also lashed out over future criticism highlighting Fetterman’s inability to perform during the debate, saying that they are “prepared” for “malicious viral videos.” In reality, the future — and past — highlighting of Fetterman’s difficulty understanding and speaking calls into question his ability to do his job in the Senate. If he cannot debate one person without the aid of closed captioning, it will be difficult for him to be able to debate on the Senate floor with numerous people speaking at once and him having to think and speak quickly.
“We are prepared for Oz’s allies and right-wing media to circulate malicious viral videos after the debate that try to paint John in a negative light because of awkward pauses, missing some words, and mushing other words together,” the memo states. “The captioning process may also lead to time delays and errors in the exchanges between the moderators and the candidates. In fact, because the captions are going to be typed out by human beings in real time, on live TV, some amount of human error in the transcription is inevitable, which may cause temporary miscommunications at times.”
In a memo sent to reporters, the Fetterman campaign seeks to lower expectations for tomorrow’s debate with Oz: “We’ll admit — this isn’t John’s format … if we’re all being honest, Oz clearly comes into Tuesday night with a huge built-in advantage.” pic.twitter.com/21CCMGGvbI
— Holly Otterbein (@hollyotterbein) October 24, 2022
NBC News journalist Dasha Burns recently called Fetterman out for his use of the closed captioning device, sparking the debate over his capabilities and whether he was fit to hold office.
NBC's Dasha Burns: "It wasn't clear he was understanding our conversation."
— Media Research Center (@theMRC) October 12, 2022
Even before that, people were questioning Fetterman’s mental fitness, as his brief appearances in public were typically gaffe-filled and embarrassing.
How is Fetterman still in the race? This is just sad. It makes me feel sad. pic.twitter.com/cmr7CsPydS
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) October 12, 2022
Fetterman’s primary care physician Dr. Clifford Chen — who has donated to Democrats, including Fetterman himself — claimed in a note earlier this month that, while Fetterman “continues to exhibit symptoms of an auditory processing disorder which can come across as hearing difficulty,” the Democrat candidate “is well and shows strong commitment to maintaining good fitness and health practices.”
“He has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office,” Chen added.