Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman (L) and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz (R) Campaign file photos
Pennsylvania voters will have to wait and see if the Democratic and Republican U.S. Senate nominees will take their feud to the debate stage, with one of the candidates officially declining to participate in a televised debate planned for next week.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee in one of the nation’s widely watched races, announced Tuesday night that he would not attend what would have been the first televised debate, hosted by Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV, on Sept. 6.
The decision comes after a month of pressure from GOP U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz, who agreed to participate, for Fetterman to accept the invitation and to call his opponent’s health into question since he suffered a stroke in May.
“I’m eager to put my record and values up against Dr. Oz’s any day of the week,” Fetterman said in a written statement. “As I recover from this stroke and improve my auditory processing and speech, I look forward to continuing to meet with the people of Pennsylvania. They’ll always know where I stand.”
Fetterman, who skipped one debate ahead of the May primary, hasn’t ruled out a debate before the Nov. 8 election — just not on Oz’s terms.
His campaign has dismissed Oz’s push for a debate as “an obvious and pathetic attempt to change the subject during yet another bad week,” Rebecca Katz, a senior advisor for the campaign, told the Capital-Star last week.
“One candidate had a stroke three months ago, and the other is a professional television personality, so our eyes are wide open about whose strengths this plays to,” Katz said.
Hours before Tuesday’s announcement from Fetterman, the Oz campaign released a “list of concessions” it would make if Fetterman would agree to participate in the debate. They included a promise from Oz “not to intentionally hurt” his opponent’s feelings, allowing Fetterman to have notes and an earpiece “so he can have the answers given to him by his staff” and bathroom breaks.
The campaign, which has recently attacked Fetterman for his stance on crime, offered to give the Democratic nominee additional time for him to answer crime-related questions. Oz also said the campaign would “pay for any additional medical personnel he might need to have on standby.”
Fetterman characterized the list as making it “abundantly clear” that Oz’s team thinks it’s “funny to mock a stroke survivor.”
“I chose not to participate in this farce. Any sense that these ‘challenges’ were done in good faith is damaged,” he said. “My recovery may be a joke to Dr. Oz and his team, but it’s real for me.”
Responding to Fetterman’s decision not to participate in the debate, Brittany Yanick, communications director for Oz, asked when the Democratic nominee plans to debate, noting that he has yet to commit to a date.
In a Wednesday morning press release, the campaign listed 10 reasons why Fetterman chose not to participate in the KDKA-TV debate, including being “scared of Oz” and taking questions from the press.
“No matter what the reason is, John Fetterman is still too crazy to be Pennsylvania’s next U.S. Senator,” the campaign said.
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