Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman has only given four national television interviews since suffering a stroke in May, all of which have occurred exclusively on MSNBC.
Following his medical emergency, Fetterman did not appear in a single nationally televised interview for more than three months, finally sitting down on August 31 with “11th Hour” host Stephanie Ruhle. Since then, Fetterman has only accepted interview offers from three other MSNBC shows; “Alex Wagner Tonight”, “All In with Chris Hayes” and “The ReidOut”.
No other national television network has had the opportunity to sit down with Fetterman.
Outside of MSNBC, Fetterman appears to have conducted only four local TV interviews since the stroke, including KDKA-TV CBS News Pittsburgh, WTAE Action 4 News, ABC 27 WHTM and Fox 56.
RECORDS SHOW A THIRD OF FETTERMAN’S DAYS AS LT. GOV. HAD AN EMPTY SCHEDULE FOR MORE THAN 3 YEARS: AP
MSNBC in particular provided interviews with Fetterman that largely involved softball matters, leading to conversations about his tattoos, his stroke recovery, and his family. He also had ample time to criticize his opponent Oz without being pressured by worries about his health, his controversial votes and views on criminal justice reform, or his progressive economic views that some have labeled as “socialist.”
In early September, The Post-Gazette editorial board expressed concern over Fetterman’s ability to serve in the U.S. Senate, which at the time had initially refused to debate Oz. The newspaper reported that Fetterman’s spared public appearances often saw the candidate stumble over words and through certain statements. They also reported that Fetterman continues to attend speech therapy sessions during the campaign and has often relied on “closed captioning to fully understand his callers” during interviews.
In print with mainstream media, Fetterman hasn’t fared much better, recently speaking with The New York Times and Politico on Sept. 15 and Sept. 7, respectively. He also spoke with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after recovering from his July 20 stroke.
Asked about the small number of nationally televised interviews, as well as other recent interviews, and whether Fetterman planned to increase his media exposure, Fetterman’s campaign spokesperson, Joe Calvello, said: “This is a false and utterly absurd story – in the last week alone John has already done at least 10 media interviews. This is Dr Oz who continues to dodge questions about his position on the issues and basically refuses to do one-on-one interviews outside of Fox News.
At first, it was unclear what Calvello was referring to when he referred to “media interviews,” as he had been specifically asked about TV interviews since Fetterman’s stroke in May. Fox News Digital asked Calvello for additional information about the interviews he was referring to to ensure accuracy, and he was also asked if he disputed the claim that Fetterman only did four TV interviews at national scale. Fox News Digital received 3 sample local TV interviews and one radio interview in response. Calvello did not answer the question about the interviews on national television.
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Fetterman’s campaign also did not respond to Fox News Digital’s question about whether he would increase his media appearances as Election Day approaches, or whether his campaign believes his current level of exposure was an adequate strategy to ensure victory in Pennsylvania.
By comparison, GOP opponent Mehmet Oz appeared 32 times on national television during the same period, mostly on Fox News and Fox Business. He also recently appeared on ABC News.
Oz has also appeared locally on Action News 4 Pittsburgh (WTAE) twice, and WGAL 8 once in July.
Oz’s senior communications advisor, Rachel Tripp, slammed Fetterman in a comment to Fox News Digital.
“Either John Fetterman isn’t transparent about his health, or he wants to hide his hardline stances on everything from crime to the economy. Sadly, that’s nothing new – Fetterman was an absentee mayor, an absentee lieutenant governor. , and is now an absentee candidate,” she said.
Fetterman agreed to debate Oz on October 25, a week before Election Day. A statement released by the Oz campaign criticized Fetterman for refusing earlier debates and expressed concern that the accepted debate will take place after “hundreds of thousands of absentee and mail-in voters begin voting. Pennsylvania residents are expected to begin voting by mail in late September.
The televised debate in Harrisburg will be the only time voters are likely to see Fetterman and Oz interact before the election results. It will also likely be the biggest media exposure Fetterman will face on the campaign trail.
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As of Tuesday, Fetterman edged Oz 46% to 40% among those likely to vote in the general election, according to a USA TODAY Network/Suffolk University poll conducted Sept. 27-30.
An average of all recent public opinion polls in the race compiled by Real Clear Politics shows Fetterman with a 4.3-point advantage over Oz.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include several more examples of local TV interviews obtained as part of the Fetterman campaign, as well as statements from the Fetterman and Oz campaigns.