Sen. John Fetterman, elected despite suffering a stroke that left him partially disabled, has checked himself into a hospital to receive treatment for clinical depression, a staffer announced Thursday.
“Last night, Sen. Fetterman checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to receive treatment for clinical depression. “While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks,” said Adam Jentleson, Fetterman’s chief of staff.
“On Monday, John was evaluated by Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the Attending Physician of the United States Congress. Yesterday, Dr. Monahan recommended inpatient care at Walter Reed. John agreed, and he is receiving treatment voluntarily. After examining John, the doctors at Walter Reed told us that John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself,” Jentleson said.
Fetterman’s health has been a topic in Keystone State political circles since he suffered a severe stroke just days before the May 2022 Democratic U.S. Senate primary. After initially downplaying the seriousness of his illness, Fetterman later admitted, “I almost died.”
In addition to leaving him struggling to communicate, Fetterman has also been hampered by accusations he and his campaign hid the severity of his illness. That charge appeared to be bolstered when Fetterman was hospitalized earlier this month after feeling light-headed. After initial suggestions from his staff that it would be an overnight visit, the senator ended up spending several days at George Washington University Hospital undergoing tests.
Fetterman’s wife, Gisele Barret0 Fetterman, tweeted a message of support: “After what he’s been through in the past year, there’s probably no one who wanted to talk about his own health less than John. I’m so proud of him for asking for help and getting the care he needs.”
Political commentator and writer Adam Jentleson sparked political controversy last week when he suggested Fetterman’s illness was due in part to being “forced” to campaign in the November election.
“What you’re supposed to do to recover from this is do as little as possible,” he told The New York Times. Instead, Fetterman “was forced to do as much as possible — he had to get back to the campaign trail. It’s hard to claw that back.”
Republicans quickly reminded the Fetterman team that he chose to remain in the race rather than allow the Pennsylvania Democratic Party to pick a replacement.
“Fetterman’s own doctors have admitted he’s suffering from brain damage, and the medical ‘fit to serve’ letter his campaign flourished before the election came from a doctor who was also a major Democratic donor,” noted University of Tennessee law professor and pundit Glenn Reynolds in the New York Post.
But Delaware Valley Democrats are standing by the senator.
Asked if she thinks Fetterman was honest with the voters about his health during the 2022 campaign, Delaware County Democratic Party chair Colleen Guiney responded to DVJournal with a one-word email: “Yes.”
And Charlotte Valyo, chair of the Chester County Democrats said, “It takes a strong person to recognize the need for help and to seek that help. The Chester County Democrats wish Sen. Fetterman a full recovery and may he be an example for others who are struggling with depression and other mental health issues. Our thoughts are with the Fetterman family and all families who are facing mental health issues.
But DelVal Republicans, not so much.
“John Fetterman’s welfare should be a concern to every American citizen. While we pray for Fetterman’s recovery his ability to serve the people effectively is more of a question today than it was the day he was elected,” said Frank Agovino, chair of the Delaware County GOP.
Montgomery County Republican Chair Liz Preate Havey said, “He clearly was not honest about his health with the voters. He never should’ve run.”
The Pennridge Area Republican Club tweeted, “The state Democrat committee owes all Pennsylvanians an apology for putting this ailing man on the ballot.”
Bucks County Republican Chair Pat Poprik said, “I really don’t know how much he knew himself. I wouldn’t comment if he was being honest because I don’t know what he knew. However, I definitely feel he should have taken himself out of the race because of his illness and the potential for future problems. When you’re a senator, you have to have everything functioning effectively and not have a diminished capacity for understanding what people are saying etc.”
She added, “His health is more important than anything and I would imagine the stress etc. of being a senator is difficult enough without having the comprehension, auditory problems he has.”