Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s campaign announced on Tuesday that it had agreed to a date for a debate with Republican nominee Mehmet Oz, over one month after early voting begins in the race.
The debate, the first in the state’s battleground Senate race in the 2022 midterm elections, will be held on Oct. 25 in Harrisburg, two weeks before election day on Nov. 8 and 36 days after early voting begins on Sept. 19. It comes after Oz has criticized Fetterman for refusing to schedule a debate with him, amid larger questions about Fetterman’s health and ability to campaign as well as serve in the Senate, should he win.
Fetterman agrees to televised debate. pic.twitter.com/LCywoESVqP
— Bethany Rodgers (@BethMRodgers) September 14, 2022
Fetterman, 53, suffered a stroke on May 13, four days before the Democratic primary. He was hospitalized and had surgery, where he was implanted with both a pacemaker and a defibrillator.
After spending several months recovering, Fetterman returned to the campaign trail in August. He has not conducted any press conferences and done limited interviews.
This has led to Republicans making Fetterman’s health a central theme of the campaign, arguing that he is unfit to serve. Oz, himself a cardiologist, said on Sept. 6 that “Fetterman is either healthy and he’s dodging the debate because he does not want to answer for his radical left positions, or he’s too sick to participate in the debate.”
He was joined by others in the party, notably Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who is retiring from the seat being contested. “It’s just not possible to be an effective senator if you cannot communicate,” Toomey said in a press conference with Oz. The Washington Post published an editorial stating that Fetterman must “debate Oz more than once.” (RELATED: CNN Host Admits The Media Is Giving Fetterman ‘A Pass’ In Heated Senate Battle)
Amid such criticism, Fetterman’s campaign initially agreed to hold a single debate in “mid-to-late October.” Joe Calvello, his campaign spokesperson, said that Nexstar Television, the debate hosts, will be providing “live, real-time closed captioning that will appear on monitors visible to the candidates and throughout the duration of the debate.”
Given Fetterman’s ongoing health problems, the inclusion of closed captioning appears intended to help him understand Oz during the debate. While Oz agreed to the debate, he asked in a statement that its duration be extended to 90 minutes and that the moderator explains to viewers that Fetterman is reading from captions.
The Oz camp made its own requests – that moderators explain Fetterman’s use of CC and that the debate be extended. pic.twitter.com/bsfuuY0LST
— Justin Sweitzer (@justin_sweitzer) September 14, 2022
“Doctor Oz will continue to push for more and sooner debates. Pennsylvania voters should not have to wait until October 25th to hear from their candidates,” said Casey Contres, Oz’s campaign manager, in a statement.
Fetterman is currently leading Oz in opinion polling, with a CBS/YouGov poll conducted in September showing him ahead by 5%, slightly over the 3.8% margin of error.
The Fetterman and Oz campaigns did not respond to requests for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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