Campaigns & Elections

Pat Toomey backs Dr. Oz in criticizing John Fetterman for dodging debate

Fetterman said his physician reassured him he should be able to serve in the Senate ‘without a problem’ as long as he takes his recovery seriously.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz Harrison Cann

On the day that was proposed to be the first debate between Dr. Mehmet Oz and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Oz was joined by the man he seeks to replace in Washington, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, calling out Fetterman for refusing to debate him. 

Standing with Toomey in a hotel conference room on City Avenue in Philadelphia Tuesday morning, Oz said Fetterman lacks honesty regarding his health and policy record. 

“Doctors fix things. I would actively work to change us for the better and protect our families,” Oz told a roomful of reporters. “Those are the opening statements you would have heard from me if John Fetterman had not ducked out of tonight’s debate.” 

Oz, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, previously challenged Fetterman to five debates this month, while highlighting Fetterman’s health challenges in the months after he suffered a stroke. He said Fetterman’s rejection to debate, including Tuesday’s proposed debate in Pittsburgh, is a sign that he’s not telling the truth. 

“Fetterman is either healthy and he's dodging the debates because he does not want to answer for his radical left positions, or he's too sick to participate in the debate,” Oz said. 

The Oz campaign previously said it would provide additional medical personnel, permit bathroom breaks and allow Fetterman to have notes and an earpiece if he accepts the invitation. Fetterman has so far declined to debate, stating that Oz’s team’s “concessions … made it abundantly clear that they think it is funny to mock a stroke survivor."

Toomey, the outgoing Republican representing the commonwealth in the Senate, has thrown his support behind Oz. Toomey said Tuesday that debating was never his favorite campaign activity but that it’s an important part of the democratic process. 

“You have one candidate, Dr. Oz, who very much wants to engage in a robust debate about the (campaigns’) differences, discuss policies and the implications for Pennsylvanians. And then you have another candidate, John Fetterman, who's doing everything possible to avoid debating those differences,” Toomey said. “John Fetterman sits at home, does social media all day (and) he raises tons of money from liberals in California and New York.”

While this isn’t the first time Oz’s campaign has gone after Fetterman for his subdued campaign strategy following his stroke, as the midterm elections near, Oz has boosted calls for Fetterman to answer questions live and in front of reporters.

“It's up to (Fetterman) to be transparent. We know precious little about what's really happening with his health,” Oz said. “As a physician, I have tremendous empathy for the difficulty of coping with heart failure and stroke … It is still up to John Fetterman to stand up and answer questions. You cannot dodge the voters.”

Fetterman’s campaign responded Tuesday stating that his physician has said he should be able to serve in the U.S. Senate “without a problem” as long as he continues to take his recovery seriously. Joe Calvello, Fetterman’s communications director, said Fetterman hasn’t been hiding from the debate stage. 

“Just yesterday, John marched for over two hours in the rain in Pittsburgh's Labor Day parade and spoke at two other events afterwards. Anyone who’s seen John speak knows that while he’s still recovering, he’s more capable of fighting for PA than Dr. Oz will ever be,” Calvello said in a statement. “We have said repeatedly that we are open to debating Oz, and we’re talking with networks, but let’s be clear: This isn’t about debates. This is about mocking John for having a stroke because they’ve got nothing else.”

Following the press conference, Oz and Toomey were questioned about the 2020 election and their support of Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who campaigned with Oz over the weekend. 

Oz said had he been in Toomey’s seat, he would not have objected to the certification of the 2020 election on Jan. 6, but that he wouldn’t have voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, as Toomey did. 

When asked about their support for Mastriano, Toomey and Oz again showed their differences. Oz noted that he’s endorsing the entire Republican slate in November, while Toomey said he’s going to “stick with the Senate race and a handful of House races.”

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