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John Fetterman talks about his stroke recovery in recent one-on-one interviews

FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks during a campaign event in York, Pa., Oct. 8, 2022. An NBC News correspondent who interviewed Fetterman said Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022 that her reporting should not be seen as commentary on his fitness for office after he suffered a stroke. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)

(WITF) - Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman is starting to grant media interviews ahead of a televised debate with Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet OzThe Oct. 25th Nexstar Media-hosted forum will be the first and only matchup between the two hopefuls before polls close on Nov. 8th.

The Lieutenant Governor-turned-Senate candidate has done a spate of interviews in the last week with outlets from Pittsburgh’s KDKA to NBC Nightly News. That’s not counting meetups with editorial board staff at the Inquirer, Philadelphia Tribune, and PennLive – all held on Wednesday.

WITF has requested an interview with Fetterman, but has yet to be granted one. Campaign spokesperson Nick Gavio said the campaign is “keeping [an interview] in mind” for a future date.

The recent media blitz is Fetterman’s first since suffering a stroke in mid-May. The Democrat spent much of the summer recovering, and while he’s returned to campaigning in-person at rallies with supporters, he has taken few media questions before leaving those events.

“I would not have been able to sit in front of you back in May or June or July because of the recovery that I needed,” Fetterman told PennLive’s editorial board in response to a question about his stroke recovery.

Most interviewers have zeroed in on the issue, asking Fetterman whether he’ll share any new details about his condition. The candidate shared an upbeat doctor’s note shortly after his May hospitalization, but has repeatedly insisted he will not disclose anything else.

“If there was anything that changed that note or whatever, I absolutely would have updated that,” Fetterman said.

The note, written by cardiologist Dr. Ramesh Chandra, chided Fetterman for not having sooner addressed heart-related issues that likely caused his stroke. Doctors diagnosed the Democratic candidate with an abnormal heartbeat and installed a pacemaker to regulate it.

Chandra added the Lieutenant Governor would “be fine” as long as he eats healthy, exercises and takes prescribed medication.

“If he does what I told him,” Chandra wrote, “he should be able to campaign and serve in the U.S. Senate without a problem.”

The Oz campaign criticized Fetterman’s refusal to share his medical records in an email Wednesday, pointing out the number of times Fetterman refused to do so in Tuesday’s NBC interview. In a separate email, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pointed to the interviewer’s claims that Fetterman had difficulty engaging in small talk without a closed captioning device.

The stroke has affected what Fetterman calls his “auditory processing” abilities: he’s been using a closed captioning system to do interviews because he’s had difficulty processing speech in real time.

“How can Pennsylvanians expect Fetterman to represent them to the fullest if he can’t even get through a short amount of ‘small talk’?” NRSC spokesperson Lizzie Litzow said in a statement.

Fetterman argued neither criticism is fair. During his PennLive interview, he mentioned that Oz has so far not agreed to take questions from its editorial board.

“I have the courage to show up and answer questions. I have the courage to know that I’m gonna miss some words or I may not get it absolutely right,” he said.

The Democrat added that his speech therapist is telling him he will eventually be able to understand words as he once did – possibly as soon as January, when he would be sworn in if he wins the Nov. 8 election.

Copyright 2022 WITF.