After weeks of debate and recriminations, Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has agreed to debate his GOP opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Dr. Mehmet Oz, on Oct. 25.
Both sides took the opportunity to slam each other in dueling press releases.
The debate, hosted by Nexstar television, was among the seven Oz had already committed to. His campaign noted that Fetterman’s only debate commitment is for a face-off that doesn’t take place until weeks after voters have begun casting mail-in and absentee ballots.
Fetterman was off the campaign trail for months after suffering a stroke and only began campaigning again in late August. He has had some stroke-related difficulties with speech due to what he calls “auditory processing.”
In a press release on Wednesday, the Fetterman campaign said the debate will be televised in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.
“We said from the start that we’d do a debate, which John reiterated very clearly again last week. Enough distractions, it’s time to talk about the issues,” said Rebecca Katz, senior advisor to the Fetterman campaign. “While John will be debating Dr. Oz next month, Oz doesn’t have to wait that long to be honest with Pennsylvania voters about where he really stands on abortion. It’s a simple question, doctor: Would you vote for the Republicans’ national abortion ban, or would you vote against it?”
The Oz campaign, in turn, released this statement: “According to Nexstar, the Fetterman campaign asked for closed captioning during the debate – for the moderators and for Doctor Oz. They also asked for two practice sessions in the studio in Harrisburg ahead of time so Fetterman could be comfortable utilizing the closed caption system. All of the other debate rules are traditional and fine with us.”
According to its release, the Oz campaign asked for three things: “That at the top of the debate – a moderator explain to the audience that Fetterman is using a closed captioning system during the debate, to explain any delay between him being asked a question and responding.
“That the questions asked by any Nexstar employee during the ‘practice’ sessions for Fetterman bear zero resemblance to the actual questions asked during the debate. We are totally fine with Fetterman practicing with the closed caption system, but not with Fetterman practicing his answers ahead of time in conjunction with the moderators. The details of how this would be enforced are still being worked out.
And, “that the debate be extended from 60 to 90 minutes – because John will be on a delay, we believe that it would be unfair to viewers interested in the candidates’ positions to waste airtime while closed captioners type questions and answers.
“If those three reasonable requests are acceptable to the Fetterman campaign, then we accept the debate invitation on October 25th,” the Oz campaign said.
“Doctor Oz has accepted seven different debates throughout September and October,” said Casey Contres, Oz campaign manager. “Today, after being hit with massive criticism from state and national editorials and commentators for ducking, John Fetterman finally agreed to one debate…that was originally scheduled for October 5th. It’s a debate that Fetterman insisted be delayed until only two weeks remain in the campaign, to keep voters in the dark as long as possible.
“And it’s a debate in which Fetterman insisted on accommodations for his health condition, accommodations that are not permitted on the U.S. Senate floor. Doctor Oz looks forward to being in Harrisburg on October 25th to share his vision for a better Pennsylvania and America, and he is ready expose Fetterman’s record as the most radical, far-left senate candidate in America.
“Voters need to hear about John Fetterman’s radical record of supporting parole for violent murderers and not paying his taxes 67 times,” Contres said.
The debate will be shown in the Delaware Valley on WPHL Channel 17.