John Fetterman

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, greets supporters at a campaign rally at the Dorothy Emanuel Recreation Center in Philadelphia on September 24, 2022. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Fetterman Raises Over $1 Million in One Day Following Attacks on Health

"In January, I'm going to be much better," said the Democratic Senate candidate, "and Dr. Oz will still be a fraud."

Following an NBC News segment which led Republicans to attack U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman's health as he continues to recover from a stroke, the Pennsylvania Democrat announced the interview appeared to boost his fundraising efforts.

On Wednesday evening, Fetterman released a brief statement saying it had "raised over $1 million" since Tuesday, when the discussion--the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor's first on-camera interview since his stroke in May--aired.

"Nothing wrong with needing captions. But ableist for media to frame it as some expose on his weaknesses."

NBC drew criticism when the correspondent who spoke to Fetterman, Dasha Burns, remarked on-air that "it wasn't clear he was understanding our conversation" when a closed-captioning device he uses was turned off.

Fetterman has used the device for several months to help him communicate, as his stroke left him facing difficulties with auditory processing--but not cognition.

"I sometimes will hear things in a way that's not perfectly clear," Fetterman told Burns in the interview. "So I use captioning, so I'm able to see what you're saying on the captioning."

Despite the explanation, Republicans quickly pounced on Burns' comment, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee accusing Fetterman of not being "transparent" about his health.

On Fox News host Sean Hannity's show Wednesday, talk radio host Clay Travis falsely claimed Fetterman "cannot speak," adding that he does not have "the health status to be able to be a United States senator." Republican strategist Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), also falsely accused other reporters of hiding the fact that Fetterman uses a closed-captioning device.

According to Rebecca Katz, an adviser to the Fetterman campaign, many of the small-dollar donations that have poured in since the NBC interview aired have been from first-time contributors.

"So many of you have shared your stories with us and you have shown your support," Katz added on Twitter.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post published an article detailing the common use of closed-captioning devices by people recovering from strokes, with Brooke Hatfield of the the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association telling the newspaper, "This is not an issue of intelligence, it's not an issue of cognition, but unfortunately how we get information in and out tends to impact how people perceive that."

Jenna Beacom, a media critic who is deaf, told the Post that NBC's presentation of Fetterman's recovery and accommodation was frustrating.

"The purely mechanical issue of lagging captions was played in a way that made it seem like Fetterman was slow on the uptake, in a way that is unfair and inaccurate," Beacom said.

A number of political observers and journalists rebuked NBC for including Burns' comments in the interview without contextualizing Fetterman's use of closed-captioning for viewers.

"Nothing wrong with needing captions. But ableist for media to frame it as some expose on his weaknesses," said Brittney Cooper, a professor of gender studies at Rutgers University. "Politics does not belong to the able-bodied."

Rebecca Traister, who profiled Fetterman recently for New York magazine, tweeted in response to Burns' comments that the candidate's "comprehension is not at all impaired" and noted that Fetterman has offered voters "an open view of his recovery."

On Wednesday, Burns tweeted that her remarks were not meant as a comment on Fetterman's "fitness for office."

Fetterman has not commented directly on the NBC interview, but noted in a tweet Wednesday that "recovering from a stroke in public isn't easy" before commenting on his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has previously attacked Fetterman's health.

"In January, I'm going to be much better," said Fetterman, "and Dr. Oz will still be a fraud."

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