The Pennsylvania Senate debate was a rare opportunity to see Democratic candidate John Fetterman without the filter of the media. And the results weren’t pretty.
Fetterman, who suffered a stroke just days before winning the Democratic primary in May, shocked the nation with his debate performance that was filled with stammering, gaffes, lengthy pauses, jumbled words, incoherent responses and interruptions. His campaign, which released a preemptive pre-debate statement essentially admitting to defeat to his GOP rival Dr. Mehmet Oz, later blamed Fetterman’s struggling performance on the closed-captioning system that the campaign itself requested due to the candidate’s ongoing auditory processing issues.
Nexstar Media Group, whose network NewsNation hosted the debate, pushed back saying not only did it go “extraordinary lengths” to accommodate Fetterman, both Fetterman and Oz were offered two rehearsals to practice with the equipment, noting Fetterman “chose to do only one.”
NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News Digital that the media has already “circled the wagons” in defense of Fetterman’s debate performance.
“The liberal media have settled on either suggesting Fetterman’s performance was inspiring to the disabled community or playing off the debate as perfectly normal with fierce disagreements over policy,” Houck said.
Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman participates in a debate with his GOP challenger Dr. Mehmet Oz on October 25 in Harrisburg, PA. (NewsNation)
Ahead of the debate, Fetterman had largely maintained a low-key presence on the campaign trail, being sidelined for months during his recovery and granting very few interviews, most of them being with friendly MSNBC hosts. There was very little media scrutiny over whether Fetterman was fit to serve as a U.S. senator.
“This was media malfeasance in broad daylight,” Fox News contributor Joe Concha told Fox News Digital. “Outside of the Washington Post and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, no major print publications were calling for Fetterman to release his medical records. Nor did any ask that he debate more than once.”
Concha called the debate a “disaster” for Fetterman, which he said likely surprised Pennsylvania voters since much of the media tried to “push this candidate over the finish line for the good of the Democratic Party.”
While the legacy media had been treating Fetterman with kids gloves, that changed earlier this month when NBC News correspondent Dasha Burns sat down with the candidate for his first in-person interview since his stroke, revealing to viewers a desktop computer that transcribed her questions in real time.
“In small talk before the interview, without captioning, it wasn’t clear he was understanding our conversation,” Burns told Lester Holt at the top of the “NBC Nightly News” report.
Dasha Burns interviews John Fetterman for NBC News. (NBC News / YouTube)
Fetterman allies in the media attacked Burns, many of whom claimed they did not observe that kind of behavior when they conducted their own interviews with the Democrat.
“Sorry to say but I talked to @JohnFetterman for over an hour without stop or any aides and this is just nonsense. Maybe this reporter is just bad at small talk,” Vox’s Kara Swisher knocked the NBC reporter.
“I interviewed @JohnFetterman here, he understood everything I was saying and he was funny,” podcast host Molly Jong-Fast said.
“Here’s my interview with @JohnFetterman from a few days ago. The notion that he wasn’t able to understand is mind-numbingly false,” liberal YouTube personality Brian Tyler Cohen tweeted.
“As someone who has recently interviewed him: Fetterman’s comprehension is not at all impaired. He understands everything, it’s just that he reads it (which requires extra acuity, I’d argue) and responds in real time. It’s a hearing/auditory processing challenge,” New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister defended Fetterman.
“I interviewed him – there were absolutely no issues. I probably stumbled more,” MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle wrote in a now-deleted tweet.
Vox’s Kara Swisher continues to defend Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman at all costs after he struggled to communicate Tuesday evening while debating Republican nominee Mehmet Oz. (REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs)
Grabien Media founder and news editor Tom Elliott said the media’s treatment of Burns “confirms their loyalty is more to the Democratic Party than their own journalistic brethren.”
“After the major media spent weeks asking ‘how can Republicans still support Herschel Walker!?,’ they pivoted seamlessly to arguing voters should elect John Fetterman even after suffering neurological damage that’s left him incapable of basic communication,” Elliott told Fox News Digital.
Houck suggested Burns was vindicated by Fetterman’s debate performance, adding she knows “she’ll never receive a single apology.” Concha insisted Kara Swisher should be “in front of the apology line,” calling her attack on Burns and defense of Fetterman “were all BS.”
Swisher didn’t flinch. In fact, she doubled down. When asked on Twitter if she had any thoughts on apologizing to Burns, Swisher replied, “None.” Though she did concede that Fetterman “had a bad night.”
Joseph A. Wulfsohn is a media reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @JosephWulfsohn.