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White House downplays concerns about Fetterman debate performance

The White House on Wednesday downplayed concerns from some Democrats about Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman’s performance at a debate Tuesday night, in which his recovery from a stroke earlier this year was a point of focus.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she didn’t know if President Biden watched the debate, but she repeatedly said the president has confidence in Fetterman and believes he is a “capable” and “authentic” individual.

“In personal conversations the president has had with the lieutenant governor, the president has found him to be an incredibly bright and talented person who’s just as capable as always to carry out the duties of his office … and has great ability and heartfelt concern for the people of the commonwealth,” Jean-Pierre said.

“That’s what the president has observed himself. That was the case before and that is the case now. He respects the courage and the honesty that he has seen from the lieutenant governor.”

Jean-Pierre was pressed by multiple reporters about whether the White House felt it was a mistake for Fetterman to debate, whether his performance raised concerns, or whether the candidate should release additional medical information. She declined to engage, saying she would defer to the Fetterman campaign on how to handle those issues.

“I’m not going to get into analysis of if he should have or should not,” she said. “We are impressed by his courage, we are impressed by what he’s been able to accomplish these past several months and the president will continue to work with him down the road.”

Biden met with Fetterman last week when he visited Pittsburgh to tout infrastructure investments in a local bridge that collapsed earlier this year, and the two attended a fundraiser later that evening. The president will visit Pennsylvania again on Friday to boost Fetterman, and he is expected to do so again next week alongside former President Obama.

Fetterman, who is 53 and currently serves as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, suffered a stroke roughly five months ago and has been open about his need to use closed captioning as he recovers.

Republicans have questioned Fetterman’s fitness for office, while the Democrat’s campaign has argued his need for closed captioning is not unusual and is something millions of Americans deal with every day.

His auditory processing problems resulting from the stroke proved to be a major part Tuesday night’s debate just two weeks before Election Day. Fetterman had a number of awkward pauses and stumbles.

“If he hadn’t done this, then people would say he’s hiding and [not] being transparent. … It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) said.

Source: The Hill

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