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Fetterman Wasn't the Only One Revealed in the Trainwreck of a Debate – The Press Has Also Been Exposed

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Photo by Patrick Semanksy, Left, and David Dremer, Right

Tuesday night John Fetterman made his long-delayed appearance in a debate with Dr. Mehmet Oz, and as most have seen by now, it was a blatant display of a man with clear cognitive issues. From his salutation of an introduction to the conclusion when he was blurting out non-sequiturs during Oz's closing statements, it was clear Fetterman was dealing with problems beyond a challenge to his hearing. 


I won't detail his numerous examples of an impacted thought process since there are plenty of pieces that have tabulated the examples. Guy Benson accurately stated it was excruciating to watch. Not a cerebral medical professional myself, the best way I could describe Fetterman's performance is that at times he appeared to have a buffering problem, with either ill-timed responses or speaking in an apparent loop, and those were instances when he remained on topic.

As tough but exposing as this display was to witness, one other disturbing reality comes to light in the wake of this Fetterman pile-up of a debate – the press has committed media malpractice in the name of a partisan protection racket. It is now clear how much the press has tried to steer clear of this story, simply in an effort to see to it that a Democrat would take a seat in the Senate. No thought had been given to the condition of the man and his ability to operate if sent to D.C.; the only concern is that he would be a (D) and a rubber stamp to the party's desires.

From the time of Fetterman's stroke, just prior to the primary vote, there have been questions about his ability in the wake of suffering this malady. These were questions the press refused to ask. When anyone dared look into if he was capable, the approach was brushed off, and the subject changed. Dr. Oz was vilified for having the gall to mention the stroke's effects, criticized by both the Fetterman campaign and the press over insensitive "shaming." 


In the ensuing weeks, journalists were mostly mum on the topic, only bringing up the stroke when a video might emerge that showed Fetterman stumbling during an appearance. The level of this coverage was an effort to explain away the apparent problem and warn off deeper criticism. "Look, he recently had a stroke, and don't you dare bring that up as a possible concern," was seemingly the tone of many of these reports. 

It was soon obvious that Fetterman was in a controlled state while campaigning. His speeches at appearances were brief, his interviews were all remotely staged, and most of the content reported on was supplied by the campaign. Talk of a debate with Oz was always brushed aside. Any extended videos of his speeches – where the questionable displays became evident – were mostly from social media, not primary news outlets. 

Meanwhile, any opposition to Fetterman could be critically framed against his condition. Call out his apparent issues and you were insensitive. Point out that he appeared impacted by his condition, and you were labeled an "ableist." Even normal campaign functions could be turned into an unseemly attack. While the press touted Fetterman was drawing more donations than Oz, the mere fact that Oz was running campaign commercials was considered distasteful because of Fetterman's health.

Weeks ago, Fetterman agreed to a sit-down interview with Dasha Burns, and this was when the true revelations came about. In her report, Burns detailed how Fetterman was supplied with a screen for captioning during the interview, as his hearing and cognition were such that he needed these visual aids. That the press had been compliant with this kind of assist was itself newsworthy, but when Burns dared to say that in general conversations off-camera Fetterman struggled with comprehension, she became the target of loud criticism. 


That much of that criticism came from the press was the staggering aspect. Journalists were outwardly angered by Burns for doing the unremarkable – she reported on what she experienced with Fetterman. Seeing how this had the media in an uproar speaks volumes, as it became very obvious they wanted his condition downplayed as much as possible. 

Kara Swisher spoke with Fetterman previously and proclaimed him of sound mind. Likewise, Rebecca Traister claimed she saw no impairment after an interview. It needs to be reminded that both conducted things via video chat, so John Fetterman spoke to them with all the technological help in place. Burns detailed what she saw in person, during conversations apart from the tech assistance, and she was scorned for it.

Following this interview, the media narrative shifted. Forced to confront the stroke's effects on Fetterman, now they were in the position of diagnosing the candidate in the most gentle way possible. He had a slight processing lag that should not be criticized. He was left with an auditory challenge that is aided by captioning and is in no way disqualifying. He has a lingering speech impediment that does not display a loss of cognition. All of this was volunteered, as few explored his actual condition.

When Joe Biden arrived in town last week to meet with Fetterman, it was also revealing. During the stop, the press was told there would be no words from the candidate. Most networks did not even cover the event, and those doing so only ran clips of Joe Biden speaking. Nobody had actual coverage of the candidate, who Joe Biden was there to support and offer exposure.


Last night's debate had been stalled for as long as possible by the Fetterman camp, and it was readily apparent as to why. They did not want his condition on display, and the effort was to push back the date as late as possible, allowing for as much mail-in and early voting to already take place. The campaign hoped to run out the clock as long as possible, and the press went along with this game plan.

The shielding and obfuscating of this man's apparent impacted condition is a distasteful display. I covered in a recent column how Republican Mark Kirk was affected by a stroke, and the press was far less protective, calling for the man to be removed because he was unable to perform his duties at full capacity. But have a Democrat vying for a seat in a hotly contested Senate, and suddenly the worrisome aspects take a back seat to the import of retaining a blue name.

The media taking this blatantly biased approach and essentially sacrificing the health and dignity of an individual for the sake of securing a Democrat Senate chair is repugnant. Journalists have lashed out at critics and even attacked one of their own in the name of obscuring how bad Fetterman's condition actually has been. 

Last night his disabilities were on full display. Today so is the craven behavior of the news outlets in this country.

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