Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman says he believes the challenges he faces after suffering a stroke in May are not “going to have an impact” on his ability to serve in the Senate if he is elected next month.
Fetterman’s remarks, which were made during an interview with NBC News at his home in Braddock, were previewed by the outlet on Tuesday and showed Fetterman using closed captioning as he answered the reporter’s questions.
“I don’t think it’s going to have an impact,” said Fetterman of the stroke’s impact on his ability to fulfill his Senate duties. “I feel like I’m gonna get better and better – every day. And by January, I’m going [to] be, you know, much better. And Dr. Oz is still going to be a fraud.”
Despite the optimism in his ability to serve in the Senate, Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, acknowledged that the stroke has altered his day-to-day life and told the reporter that “everything about it is changed.”
Defending the use of closed-captioning services for the interview, Fetterman told the outlet: “I sometimes will hear things in a way that’s not perfectly clear. So I use captioning so I’m able to see what you’re saying on the captioning.”
“But it gets much, much better where I take in a lot,” Fetterman added, describing some of the lasting struggles. “But to be precise, I use captioning, so that’s really the maiming, excuse me, that’s the major challenge. And every now and then I’ll miss a word. Every now and then. Or sometimes I’ll maybe mush two words together. But as long as I have captioning, I’m able to understand exactly what’s being asked.”
Fetterman, who is running against Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, told NBC News that he believes his campaign has been “very transparent” about his health and that he is proof of that by delivering speeches “without a teleprompter.”
“I feel like we have been very transparent in a lot of different ways,” Fetterman said. “When our doctor has already given a letter saying that I’m able to serve and to be running. And then I think there’s – you can’t be any more transparent than standing up on a stage with 3,000 people and having a speech without a teleprompter and just being – and putting everything and yourself out there like that. I think that’s as transparent as everyone in Pennsylvania can see.”
Attempting to push back on Republicans who have taken aim at him for his record on crime, Fetterman referenced the film “Shawshank Redemption” to express his beliefs regarding clemency for those convicted of crimes.
“If you, at the end of the movie, you would vote to have Morgan Freeman’s character die in prison, then that’s really those – that’s the choice,” he said. “I haven’t met a single person that’s said, ‘Yeah, Morgan Freeman should die in prison.’ It’s all a choice on redemption and giving somebody a chance to not die in prison that is no of any danger to the public whatsoever.”
Fetterman told the outlet that he will “of course” show up to debate Oz at the Oct. 25 debate, which was agreed to by the Keystone State Democrat last month. After months of refusing to participate in a debate, Fetterman reportedly requested the use of closed captioning for the debate.
The debate will be hosted by Nexstar Television in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is scheduled to take place just two weeks before Election Day on Nov. 8. The debate will be broadcast throughout Pennsylvania and featured live on local network affiliates that cover all of the state’s 67 counties.
Following the interview, Dasha Burns, the NBC News correspondent who interviewed Fetterman, said he has some “lingering auditory processing issues” and “some problems, some challenges with speech” as a result of the stroke.
“Just in some of the small talk prior to the interview, before the closed captioning was up and running, it did seem that he had a hard time understanding our conversations,” Burns told MSNBC viewers on Tuesday.