The video of Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman struggling to speak during a committee hearing went viral on Wednesday, once again raising questions about the first-term Democrat’s ability to do the job.
It was Fetterman’s first time to chair a Senate subcommittee, and his performance repeatedly revealed the lingering effects of the stroke he suffered while on the campaign trail last year.
“I call to this hearing of the U.S. Senate subcommittee and food and nutrition and specialty crops, organics and research, to order,” the Democrat said.
Fetterman spoke haltingly, struggling to pronounce simple words. He used a child-like, sing-song voice as he read pre-prepared questions to those giving testimony to the committee.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), who may be eyeing a run for the U.S. Senate in 2024, called the video “heartbreaking and difficult to watch.”
“Sadly, he has been unfit to serve since last May. Last year, he was unable to preside over the state Senate (as lieutenant governor) due to health reasons. Yet there is silence from the mainstream media, who would be daily demanding his resignation if he were a Republican.”
Fetterman was recently released after spending six weeks at Walter Reed Military Medical Center receiving treatment for severe depression. “My message right now isn’t political,” Fetterman said after his release. “I’m just somebody that’s suffering from depression.” Depression is a common after-effect of strokes, medical experts say.
His absence, coupled with the inability of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) to serve due to her age (she turns 90 in June) and health issues, denied Democrats a majority and brought work on several key committees to a halt.
Fetterman’s decision to remain in the 2022 Senate race despite his debilitation at the time generated criticism and questions. His poor performance in his one televised debate with Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz was widely viewed as a fiasco at the time. But Fetterman handily defeated his GOP opponent, possibly because of the large number of ballots that had already been mailed in.
The criticisms were revived when Fetterman was forced back into treatment soon after being sworn into the Senate.
Delaware County GOP Chairman Frank Agovino said that while he supports “compassion and resources” for the disabled, “Sen. Fetterman is over his head and current ability level. It’s not fair to him, and every day he serves in the U.S. Senate, we are a little less safe.”
Pat Poprik, Bucks County GOP Chairwoman said, “It is so sad to see him struggle to read prepared remarks like this. It appears that he is unfortunately still dealing with the effects of his stroke, and I believe it raises questions about his ability to effectively serve in the United States Senate.”
Political pundits immediately reacted to the new video.
Christine Flowers, who often writes for DVJournal, said, “The senator is clearly still suffering the effects from the debilitating stroke he experienced almost a year ago. Listening to him speak in a halting, stilted manner elicits sympathy for him as an individual, but deep concern for his ability to fulfill his duties as a public servant. It is also an example of just how much his supporters, including his family and support staff, lack candor, as well as respect for his constituents.”
Townhall’s Matt Vespa wrote that his speech troubles indicate Fetterman “cannot serve a full term.”
Hannah Nightingale at the Post Millennial reported the senator “struggl[ed] with his words” during the speech.
And longtime Trump ally Jenna Ellis put it bluntly: “Fetterman is not okay.”