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BuzzFeed Claims Fetterman Interview Will 'Worsen...Violence Towards Disabled People'

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

John Fetterman's health has been rocking the news cycle in recent days as we get closer to the midterm elections, as Townhall has covered at length. There have been mixed reactions from the mainstream media, with even CNN and MSNBC admitting there's a problem, while other reporters come to his defense


Wednesday's report from BuzzFeed's David Mack is certainly raising eyebrows. "Disability Advocates Say The Response To John Fetterman Using Closed Captioning In An Interview As He Recovers From A Stroke Was 'Deeply Upsetting' And Stigmatizing," his headline read.

One particular passage is garnering attention, as it suggests the framing of the interview amounts to actual violence:

Disability activist Charis Hill told BuzzFeed News they were so upset at Burns’s questions and the editors’ framing of Fetterman’s responses — leaving in moments of silence that showed Fetterman reading, for example — that they couldn’t finish watching the interview. Hill called on NBC to apologize for “the overt discrimination they just put on air.”

“The way Burns handled that interview will only worsen attitudes and violence towards disabled people in a time when virtual accommodations are being removed left and right after they were implemented overnight in 2020,” Hill said.

Hill goes by "they/them" on Twitter, and has tweeted and retweeted Mack's article at length. Hill's Twitter bio also in part reads that "Disabled writer, speaker, activist, model. Cat theydy. Gardener. Impoverished."

That's not the only problem with the piece, though. Mack's article, leaning heavily on these "disability advocates," also frames his article as if voters are making too much of an issue as to how Fetterman's health means he is not up for the job:


The response from some political reporters in DC further homed in on the accommodation Fetterman required during the interview. “An important interview with top Senate contender,” CBS reporter Ed O’Keefe said. “Will Pennsylvanians be comfortable with someone representing them who had to conduct a TV interview this way?”

For advocates of people with permanent and temporary disabilities, the interview and the response leaned too much on Fetterman’s condition and whether he was up to the job.

“I was stunned to see how the coverage of his use of captions was so riddled with ableism,” said Maria Town, the president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities. “The interview was deeply upsetting to see.”


Eric Buehlmann, deputy executive director for public policy at the National Disability Rights Network, said he watched the interview having himself suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was in college. Buehlmann also has a son with auditory processing issues similar to Fetterman’s.

“As the discussion was occurring in the interview the other day, I'm like, Yeah, this happens to people and people deal with this, and this is a reality of life for a number of people,” Buehlmann said. “So it shouldn't be used as a stigmatizing tool, or something that needs to, quote-unquote, disqualify someone from being a senator.”


Given that Fetterman has not released medical records, it appears that the campaign and those who defend it are saying voters don't deserve to know. 

As our friends at Twitchy highlighted, Ellen Carmichael, of the Lafayette Co., went to town highlighting concerns with the bias of the article.


The race has moved back and forth into the "Toss-Up" column, with Cook Political Report putting it in that category last week. RealClearPolitics has a +3.7 lead for Fetterman, which has been decreasing as his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, gains momentum. The Washington Examiner's Byron York in a recent column suggested that Oz, and other Republicans, may actually be ahead, given how polls have been biased and/or mistaken. 

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