John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Democratic candidate for the US Senate, accepted an invitation to debate his opponent, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, on Oct. 25, well after voting began in Keystone State.
Nexstar will host the debate in Harrisburg, the Fetterman campaign noted in a statement. Fetterman, who suffered a stroke in May and has struggled at public events since returning to the track in August, had dodged debate before telling Politico last week that he would attend one. However, he didn’t provide any details other than that it would be “between the middle and the end of October.” Quoting the Philadelphia Citizen, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen noted that mail-in voting begins Sept. 19.
“We said from the start that we were going to have a debate, which John reiterated very clearly last week. Enough distractions, it’s time to talk about the issues,” Fetterman’s senior campaign adviser Rebecca Katz said Wednesday.
Shortly after the announcement, the Oz campaign issued its own statement stating that Nexstar had informed them that “the Fetterman campaign has requested captioning during the debate – for the moderators and for Doctor Oz”. Fetterman’s campaign also called for a pair of practice sessions to familiarize themselves with the closed captioning system. These hosting requests prompted three requests from the Oz team.
First, the campaign demanded that a moderator disclose that Fetterman will be using the closed captioning system to explain why there will be delays between his answers to questions. Second, the campaign demands that the questions asked during the “practice sessions” bear no resemblance to the real questions asked during the debate”.
“We are totally okay with Fetterman practicing with the captioning system, but not with Fetterman practicing his responses beforehand in conjunction with moderators,” the Oz campaign added. “The details of how this would be applied are still being worked out.”
Finally, because Fetterman’s responses will be delayed, the campaign is calling for a 90-minute debate instead of 60 minutes to make up for any potentially lost airtime.
Fetterman’s commitment to debate comes days after the Washington Post the editorial board called on him to release his medical records and claimed the campaign “wasted credibility” with its lack of transparency surrounding Fetterman’s hospitalization in May. He also called on him to debate more than once, an event taking place before voting began.
“Today, after being hit with massive criticism from national and national editorials and commentators for dodging, John Fetterman finally agreed to a debate…which was originally scheduled for October 5,” said Oz campaign manager Casey Contres said in a statement, adding:
It’s a debate that Fetterman insisted be delayed until there are only two weeks left in the campaign, to keep voters in the dark for as long as possible. And it’s a debate in which Fetterman insisted on accommodations for his medical condition, accommodations that are not allowed on the floor of the US Senate.
“Doctor Oz will continue to push for more and faster debates,” Contres said. “Pennsylvania voters shouldn’t have to wait until October 25 to hear from their candidates.”