NBC News correspondent Dasha Burns doubled down on her observations about the health of Democratic Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman.
Burns previously said Tuesday that Fetterman had difficulty understanding her questions when she interviewed him in an exclusive NBC News interview. The Democratic nominee had to read her questions off of a monitor due to his auditory processing issues caused by a stroke that he suffered in May.
“Today” show co-host Savannah Guthrie pushed back against Burns’ observations Wednesday saying that many journalists who have communicated with Fetterman personally have found that he is in good condition.
“Yeah and Savannah, that’s completely fair that that was their experience,” Burns responded. “We can only report our own. I will say it’s important to note that according to the campaign itself, our team was the first to be in the room with Fetterman for an interview rather than via remote video conference and myself, my producer and our crew did find that small talk before that captioning was difficult because of those auditory processing issues I mentioned.”
She added that stroke experts determined Fetterman’s auditory processing issues did not mean he had cognitive or memory impairments and could reach a full recovery. The candidate was able to understand Burns’ questioning once the captioning had been provided. (RELATED: ‘Don’t Voters Deserve To Know?’: NBC Reporter Presses John Fetterman On His Mental Fitness On His Post-Stroke)
Journalists jumped to Fetterman’s defense following Burns’ remarks on his auditory processing issues. Vox’s Kara Swisher said the candidate had no issues with his speech. NY Mag writer Rebecca Traister and podcast host Brian Tyler Cohen also chimed in.
“Sorry to say but I talked to @JohnFetterman for over an hour without stop or any aides and this is just nonsense. Maybe this reporter is just bad at small talk,” Swisher said.
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) October 12, 2022
As someone who has recently interviewed him: Fetterman’s comprehension is not at all impaired. He understands everything, it’s just that he reads it (which requires extra acuity, I’d argue) and responds in real time. It’s a hearing/auditory processing challenge. https://t.co/RzmyfBDJX6
— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) October 12, 2022
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) October 12, 2022
Fetterman’s problems with auditory processing and slurred speech have sparked skepticism about his ability to serve in the U.S. Senate if he wins the race against Republican opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz. After returning to the campaign trail in August, Fetterman pulled out of five scheduled debates, leading Oz’s communication’s director Brittany Yanick to call him “a liar, a liberal, and a coward.” (RELATED: ‘Obviously They Want Clicks’: John Fetterman’s Wife Gisele Goes After WaPo)
Media outlets have expressed concern about Fetterman’s fitness to serve over his inability to debate Oz. The editorial boards at the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette and Washington Post both raised concerns about his ability to serve in the Senate after pulling out of debates and not immediately disclosing certain details about his health.
Fetterman’s campaign spokesperson, Joe Calvello, said in a statement obtained by the Daily Caller Tuesday that Fetterman has been fully transparent about his health complications and that he is headed toward a full recovery.
“As we’ve said over and over again, John is healthy and he also still has a lingering auditory processing issue that his doctors expect will go away,” Cavello said. “John has already released a letter from his cardiologist and put out a candid letter directly from himself about his stroke. He’s been transparent in talking openly about his health with local and national media, while also showing voters how this closed-caption technology helps him communicate more effectively.
“Unfortunately for Dr. Oz and the pathetic Republicans who are desperately rooting against his recovery, John is getting better every day and he is going to win this race to be Pennsylvania’s next Senator,” the statement continued. “In January, John is going to be even better — and Dr. Oz will still be a fraud.”