Mehmet Oz will take the stage against his Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Senate opponent in an Oct. 25 debate if three conditions are met, his campaign said on Sept. 14.
After weeks of listening to Oz questioning Fetterman’s refusal to participate in a debate, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor agreed to a forum hosted by Nexstar Television in Harrisburg on Oct. 25, exactly two weeks before the Nov. 8 general election day.
Oz has repeatedly said that the first debate should be held before the first mail-in ballots are sent out on Sept. 19. Fetterman, who had a stroke just before the Democratic primary in May, has made few public appearances since winning his party’s nomination. He continues to experience auditory processing issues that prevent him from promptly responding to what he hears.
Fetterman asked for the use of closed captioning during the debate and for two practice sessions in the studio, according to the Oz campaign.
In a statement, Oz’s campaign released a statement outlining the three conditions it requested for the event:
At the opening of the debate, a moderator tells viewers that Fetterman is using a closed captioning system and there could be a delay in what he is asked and when he responds.
Questions provided to Fetterman in the practice sessions have no resemblance to questions asked in the debate.
The debate should be extended from 60 minutes to 90 minutes to cover the delay related to the closed captioning system.
It would be “unfair to viewers to waste airtime while close captioners type questions and answers,” the Oz campaign wrote.
Oz wanted the first debate to occur on Sept. 6, but Fetterman declined. Instead, Oz held a press conference in the Philadelphia area with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who is retiring and will be replaced by Oz or Fetterman.
At the press conference, Oz and Toomey attacked Fetterman for refusing to debate and questioned his ability to serve in the Senate, if elected, because of his health condition.
Over the last week, editorials in The Washington Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Philadelphia Inquirer have also expressed concern about Fetterman’s wellness and have criticized him for not agreeing to debate Oz.
After suffering the stroke on May 13, Fetterman had surgery to implant a pacemaker. It was revealed that he has a serious heart condition. Fetterman, who has not provided access to his medical records, has said that he almost died.
Since the stroke, he has conducted just a few interviews with reporters, has not held a press conference, and has incorporated closed-captioning in video interviews with media members.
In a statement, Contres said that Fetterman agreed to the Oct. 25 debate only “after being hit with massive criticism from state and national editorials and commentators for ducking.”
Fetterman’s campaign has told media outlets that 83 percent of ballots were cast in the final two weeks of the 2020 election, and that this year the number is expected to be higher.
Oz’s motivation for criticizing Fetterman about not debating is to mock him as a stroke survivor, Fetterman’s campaign has also said.
Fetterman does not have an issue with alerting viewers and attendees about the closed captioning, his campaign said. The practice sessions are merely routine walkthroughs that are common in any debate, the campaign added.
The campaigns do not agree about the debate’s duration. Fetterman’s campaign insists that the event last 60 minutes and told reporters that Oz’s campaign had agreed.
“For weeks Oz and his team have wet the bed about debates,” Fetterman’s campaign told The Associated Press. “Enough already, we are debating on the 25th, either show up or don’t, but now let’s get back to talking about the issues that matter, like how Oz would vote on the Senate abortion ban.”
Oz has suggested five debates before election day, but he “looks forward to being in Harrisburg on October 25th to share his vision for a better Pennsylvania and America, and he is ready to expose Fetterman’s record as the most radical far-left senate candidate in America,” Contres said.
“Doctor Oz will continue to push for more and sooner debates. Pennsylvania voters should not have to wait until October 25th to hear from their candidates,” Contres added.
Oz’s campaign is attempting to “move the goal posts” by asking that the debate be expanded by a half-hour, Fetterman campaign senior advisor Rebecca Katz said in a statement.
“Oz agreed to a 60-minute Nexstar debate. Then we agreed to a 60-minute Nexstar debate. Now, suddenly 60 minutes isn’t good enough, and he’s demanding 90,” Katz wrote. “Let’s be real: If we agreed to 10 debates, Oz would be demanding 20. He’s going to keep trying to move the goal posts because this is his only play.”
Since learning that he would face Oz in the general election and staying off the campaign trail during his recovery, Fetterman has mostly conducted his campaign on social media, frequently trolling his celebrity surgeon opponent with memes that call Oz a wealthy carpetbagger from New Jersey.
In recent weeks, Oz has fought back, questioning Fetterman’s health condition and criticizing him for not agreeing to debate.