Pennsylvania Senate candidates John Fetterman — the state's Democratic lieutenant governor — and Republican Mehmet Oz — a doctor and former syndicated daytime talk show host — faced off on Tuesday night for their first and only debate.
Fetterman had a stroke in May, and used closed captioning technology to read the questions being asked. Hitting back at Oz and Republicans who have questioned his health, Fetterman said his doctor "believes that I'm fit to be serving." He also brought up "the elephant in the room. I've had a stroke — [Oz] has never let me forget that — and I might miss some words during this debate, mush two words together. It knocked me down, but I'm gonna keep coming back up, this campaign to me is about fighting for everyone in Pennsylvania that ever got knocked down, that needs to get back up, and fighting for all forgotten communities all across Pennsylvania that also got knocked down."
Oz — who called himself a political outsider and "candidate for change" — deflected criticism of his former television program, The Dr. Oz Show; he has been accused of promoting products that make dubious health claims, and was scolded for this in 2014 during a Senate hearing. Oz said he was proud of his show and that it "ruffled a lot of feathers."
Oz has taken a more measured stance on abortion than Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who wants an outright ban on the procedure, and he said in Tuesday's debate he wants abortion decisions left to "women, doctors, local political leaders, letting the democracy that's always allowed our nation to thrive, to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves." Fetterman said women should be able to make their own reproductive choices, and "if given the opportunity," he would codify Roe v. Wade.
A third person came into play during the debate: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Oz mentioned Sanders several times, trying to link the senator to Fetterman, who in turn brought up Sanders' appearance on The Dr. Oz Show three years ago. "He hugged him and said, 'I love this guy,'" Fetterman said. "Why don't you pretend that you live in Vermont instead of Pennsylvania and run against Bernie Sanders, since all you can do is talk about Bernie Sanders? My truth is that health care is a basic fundamental right and I believe in expanding that, and I support fighting for health care, the kind of health care that saved my life."