Oz Campaign Claims John Fetterman Is ‘Too Sick’ After Democrat Declines To Participate In Debate

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Campaign officials for Republican Mehmet Oz are claiming Lt. Gov. and Pennsylvania Senate rival John Fetterman is “too sick” amid the Democrat’s continued refusal to participate in pre-election debates.

The Oz campaign proposed a series of five debates in early August, shortly after Fetterman returned to the campaign trail following a life-threatening stroke. Fetterman’s team declined the invitation. Fetterman also did not respond to CBS affiliate KDKA Pittsburgh’s request to participate in a debate, drawing the latest salvo from Oz’s camp.

“We just assume that John Fetterman is not able to debate — which, again, we completely understand,” a spokesperson for Oz told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He suffered a major stroke, and it’s clear that it’s affected him physically. We would get it, and I think Pennsylvania voters will get it.”

The Oz campaign also suggested Fetterman’s diet may have been the main cause of his stroke. The Democrat has spoken publicly about losing 150 pounds in one year.

“If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke and wouldn’t be in the position of having to lie about it constantly,” Rachel Tripp, senior communications advisor for the Oz campaign, told Insider.

A spokesperson for Fetterman denied any inability to participate, claiming the CBS debate was part of the Oz campaign’s attempt to distract from a negative news cycle.

“John is up for debating Oz — we’re not going to do this on Oz’s terms. A millionaire celebrity like Dr. Oz is probably used to pushing people around and getting his own way, but he’s not going to be able to bully John Fetterman,” a senior adviser for the Fetterman campaign, Rebecca Katz, said in a statement, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Fetterman suffered a stroke in early May, shortly before his resounding primary victory over Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb. The candidate and his doctors later revealed Fetterman had suffered heart problems in 2017, but he did not follow up with any other medical professionals. Other reports claimed Fetterman’s stroke was more serious than his campaign first indicated. (RELATED: Democratic Senate Candidate May ‘Miss A Word’ Or ‘Slur Two Together’ After Stroke)

Since the stroke, Fetterman has conducted a mostly online campaign. The candidate has released several fundraising videos with his family, while also featuring celebrities from New Jersey making fun of Oz for his property holdings in the Garden State.

Fetterman made his first public appearance since the stroke at a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania on Aug. 12. The candidate described himself as “grateful to be here” during a roughly 11-minute speech in which he repeatedly seemed to stumble over his words.

Recent polls have shown Fetterman leading Oz by between four and 11 points. The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter recently amended its Pennsylvania Senate race rating to “lean Democratic” from “toss-up.”